Okies in the NFL: Game is slowing down for Clevland Browns DE Emmanuel Ogbah
A bright spot in an otherwise dismal season for the Cleveland Browns has been the play of Emmanuel Ogbah.
The rookie from Oklahoma State has started every game for the winless Browns this season and seems to be making great strides as Cleveland prepares to host Pittsburgh on Sunday.
After starting the season as an outside linebacker, then moving to defensive end, and then back to outside linebacker, the Browns this week permanently moved Ogbah to defensive end.
It's a position which is more natural for the 23-year-old from Houston. The Browns drafted Ogbah in the second round of the 2016 NFL draft in April and No. 32 overall in part because they liked his ability to rush the passer.
“I feel like I am definitely improving, every weekend getting better,” Ogbah said. “There is still a lot of room for improvement, but I feel like I am getting better as the weeks go by.”
Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton told reporters Friday that Ogbah is becoming more comfortable with the NFL game.
“Every week I challenge him to play faster and faster,” Horton said. “He is starting to understand the speed of the NFL game and getting more comfortable. Obviously, we think he's got a very bright future.
“We will move him around because now he is athletic enough and he is smart enough and he has been in the system where moving him to a different position, meaning schematically, won't bother him.”
Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson also praises Ogbah.
"He is growing. He is learning that every week is a different challenge," Jackson said at the Browns' press conference on Thursday. "You face different offensive linemen week in and week out, and he is learning how to keep preparing for those guys and how to defeat those guys.
"He has done a good job since he has been (at defensive end). He has come alive a little bit, not that he was not before, but I think you see the naturalness in his ability to rush and different abilities to play the run and do those things a little bit more there at that position.
"I feel very comfortable that that is where he is and where he will be. If he grows into something else as we go, great, but right now, I feel very good about him playing that spot.”
Ogbah has made 37 tackles, including three sacks, this season for the Browns but 20 of those tackles have come in the last four games.
“The game has kind of slowed down for me,” Ogbah said. “I am more comfortable than I was at the beginning of the season.”
Ogbah is learning that every week is a challenge in the NFL. It is not as easy to get to the quarterback in the NFL as it was when he was terrorizing offensive linemen in the Big 12.
“The (NFL) game is more mental. We are playing against guys that have been in this league for a very long time so they know all the tricks and what young players do,” Ogbah said. “The quarterbacks release the ball so fast by the time you get to them the ball is gone.”
At 6-3, 275 pounds, Ogbah also has found himself playing more in the interior of the defensive line than he did at OSU. It is an area of Ogbah's game where he says he can improve the most.
“Since I am playing in a 3-4 defense, I will be inside a lot taking on the double teams and I have to learn to get lower and free up the guys behind me to make a play,” he said.
A native of Lagos, Nigeria, Ogbah immigrated to the United States with his family when he was 9 years old. He grew up playing soccer, but found a knack for playing American football in junior high.
In his three collegiate seasons at OSU, Ogbah totaled 133 tackles, including 95 solo tackles and 26.5 sacks. He had double-digit sack totals as both a sophomore and a junior for the Cowboys and also forced five fumbles in his collegiate career.
Ogbah has never experienced a season in high school or college like the one the Browns are currently having. Even though Cleveland hasn't won a game, the Bowns have a good nucleus of young players like Ogbah and many football pundits think they are heading in the right direction.
Ogbah said morale is high on the club.
“We still have got each other's backs. We are still grinding,” Ogbah said. “Everybody knows this is a rebuilding year. It sucks not to be winning, but we keep getting better.
“You just gotta make the best of it. There is a lot of hard work we are putting in. There is a lot of young guys on this team who were drafted to come make a difference here. That's what we are aiming to do.”