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— Saints defensive tackle David Onyemata is no longer an intriguing international prospect with unknown potential.
The native Nigerian [url=http://www.dallascowboysteamonline.com/dak-prescott-jersey]Dak Prescott Cowboys Jersey[/url] , who learned American-style football as a college student in Canada, is entering his third NFL season as an established starter upon whom the Saints are increasingly comfortable relying to plug up rushing lanes or make quarterbacks uncomfortable when they drop back to pass.
“We certainly look at him that way,” Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen said after practice on Monday evening. “He’s established himself as a starting caliber defensive lineman in our league and he’s certainly going to be a big part of what we’re trying to get accomplished this year.”
Onyemata, 25, always looked the part at 6-foot-4, 325 pounds. That’s a big reason the Saints decided it would be worthwhile to use a fourth-round draft choice on him in 2016.
But Onyemata never envisioned an NFL playing career when he went to college in western Canada. He was there to study, and took up football because he was looking for an interesting way to diversify his college experience outside the classroom. He’d played soccer growing up, and was ready to try something new that perhaps suited his body type.
Ultimately, his academics-first approach to college — he earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental science — might have aided his adjustment to the NFL.
“For a guy that had played as little football as he had, there was some terminology things that he had to learn … but I wouldn’t say that was any slower than it was for maybe any other rookie that we’ve had,” Allen recalled. “So I think that’s one of the things that’s allowed him to be maybe as productive for us as he has, is that he is smart and learns really well. He’s not a repeat-mistake offender.”
Onyemata played in all 16 regular season games in 2017, starting the last six. He had 40 tackles, two sacks and one batted pass.
This past offseason [url=http://www.greenbaypackersteamonline.com/ty-montgomery-jersey]Ty Montgomery Packers Jersey[/url] , Onyemata took some time to return home in March to see family and friends in Africa, but also spent a lot of time in Baton Rouge, working with long-time defensive line coach Pete Jenkins on more nuanced aspect of his position, such as his initial movements at the snap and how to use his hands to improve leverage.
“Just having the mindset to get better and work on things you’re not good at — that has been the goal,” Onyemata said, adding that he now has a strong command of New Orleans’ defensive scheme and the terminology used to call it. “You know what they’re asking you to do and you know what they’re expecting you to do, so you just go out there and do your job.”
Saints center Max Unger was in his second season in New Orleans in 2016 and has witnessed Onyemata’s evolution as a football player up close.
“The accent’s still there,” Unger said, but quickly added, “He’s becoming, I think, the player that a lot of people thought that he was going to be and it’s impressive to see his development, especially coming down from Canada and not having a lot of football under his belt.
“It’s tough to go against, honestly [url=http://authenticlosangeleschargers.com/cheap-kyzir-white-jersey]Cheap Kyzir White Jersey[/url] ,” Unger continued. “I mean, look at him. He’s a big, fast, physical guy that just needs to play as much football as he can. Again, it’s a big jump to come into this league and I think that he has progressed pretty rapidly.”
Unger said Onyemata’s growth is evident in his awareness of what offenses are trying to do and how to defend it.
“You can be fast, you can be physical, but not knowing where the ball is, as a D-lineman, I guess is half the battle,” Unger said, adding the Onyemata is also better at disguising his own intentions before the snap. “All of those things, he’s showing pretty rapid improvement in.”
When you come to the provincial capital of Manitoba for the playoffs to face the Winnipeg Jets, you know two things for sure: it’s going to be white, and it’s going to be loud. The fans inside MTS Centre wear white to playoff games — a tradition started three decades ago during the team’s first incarnation in Winnipeg. And they’re noisy. Really [url=http://www.authenticsmiamidolphins.com/cheap-josh-sitton-jersey]Josh Sitton Color Rush Jersey[/url] , really noisy
Bruce Boudreau will bring the Minnesota Wild to Winnipeg on Wednesday for Game 1 one of their first-round playoff series. Since the NHL returned to Winnipeg in 2011, Boudreau is in fact the only opposing coach to experience that atmosphere first-hand.
In 2015, Boudreau coached the Anaheim Ducks to a four-game sweep of the Jets in round one, including a pair of wins in Winnipeg. So, he’s not expecting to be intimidated by conditions inside the arena.
“They have a rabid fan base, but every team in the NHL has a rabid fan base at this stage of the game,” Boudreau said Tuesday, before the Wild boarded a northbound plane. “Noise isn’t going to bother you.”
If the Wild are going to get bothered, it will be on the rink, as they face a Jets team that has shown few weak spots in finishing second in the Central Division and earning home ice for the series.
“You have less room for error because they’re always coming at you. You can’t have a 10-minute break so to speak and play normal. You always have to be on your toes playing the right way because one line’s as good as the next line,” Boudreau said of the Jets. “It’s not a question that they’re overly deep, it’s just you’ve got to play the same way to defend player A as player X on their team.”
What the Jets lack in playoff experience, with one of the youngest and perhaps hungriest rosters in the NHL, they make up for in enthusiasm [url=http://www.authenticssanfrancisco49ers.com/cheap-dante-pettis-jersey]Dante Pettis Jersey Elite[/url] , as the roster and the city are excited — perhaps overly so — for the start of the playoffs. This franchise, which started as the Atlanta Thrashers in 1999, has never won a playoff game, and the opportunity to do that for the first time is the talk of the town.
“Game day is going to be really exciting for us, but the hockey doesn’t change,” said Jets coach Paul Maurice, who coached the Carolina Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2002. “It’s going to get faster and all the details are pushed harder by both teams, but the game that we want to play is what we’ve been working on for 82.”
The Wild lineup might look different, at least on the blue line, then in recent games when the puck drops Wednesday. Defenseman Jared Spurgeon has been out since last month with a groin injury but has been practicing and is hopeful to return. It would be a big boost for Minnesota, which is reeling from the loss of defenseman Ryan Suter to a season-ending leg injury.
“He’s getting better,” Boudreau said of Spurgeon’s status. “Still a game-time decision (Wednesday).”
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