With news out of New Orleans Saints camp that pass rush specialist Hau’oli Kikaha has a torn ACL and will most likely miss the entire 2016 season, the team and fans find themselves in panic mode along the defensive line. Fret not Saints fans, Obum Gwacham is ready to fill the need.
Gwacham, a defensive end from Oregon State University drafted in the sixth round of the 2015 NFL draft by the Seattle Seahawks, is not new to the Saints defense. He was acquired a day after the Seahawks released him just before the start of the 2015 NFL season. Gwacham played in nine games for the New Orleans Saints and accumulated 2.5 sacks, playing on nine percent of defensive snaps. The sack totals were good enough for fifth-best on the team.
At Oregon State, Gwacham started as a wide receiver, catching one touchdown pass as a Sophomore in 2012. By the 2014 college football season, he was a full-time defensive end playing in 12 games and producing four sacks for the Oregon State Beavers. He showed a quick first step at the snap and the ability to play in zone pass coverage making his versatility especially appealing to NFL defenses.
During a play in the 3rd Quarter of a game against the Stanford Cardinals in 2014, Gwacham used a nifty head fake to confuse the right tackle Kyle Murphy (sixth round draft pick for the Green Bay Packers in the 2015) and chase quarterback Kevin Hogan as he scrambled just passed the line of scrimmage.
Against the Washington Redskins last season, Gwacham made a smart play on a 3rd and 3 with Washington inside the red zone. Gwacham played far outside the left tackle at his right defensive end spot. As soon as the ball was snapped, he made a quick head fake and then got his hands up immediately, understanding quarterback Kirk Cousins wanted to release the ball quickly. Cousins was unable to get the pass to the running back due to Gwacham’s quick thinking and had to hold on to the ball before Gwacham was eventually able to get the sack.
Plays like the ones mentioned will be a welcomed sight for Saints fans as the team tries to improve from being one of the worst defenses in 2015. Gwacham gives the Saints speed off the edge to make the quarterback react quicker than they would like, and if he continues to develop he will be a nightmare for offenses in the 2016 season.
The problem is he is very raw and has only played the position on a full-time basis for two years. He lacks multiple pass rush moves that could improve his sack numbers and his size made him easily maneuvered off of his pass rush by offensive linemen.
The most interesting news about Obum Gwacham’s offseason was that he added 10-15 pounds on a frame that carries the weight rather well. Unofficial reports of his new weight list him at close to 260 pounds. At 6-foot-5, Gwacham now has the ideal size for a pass rushing defensive end in the NFL. Gwacham mentioned in an interview after speaking to kids at Camp PowerUp in New Orleans that he will play the open-ended ‘Jack’ position in the Saints base defense. He went on to explain that at the open end a player needs “to be your faster guy”, and that is certainly what Gwacham brings to the Saints defense.
Will he be the savior of the Saints pass rush? Not even close. He was third on the depth chart in 2015 and is still behind Kasim Edebali for the ‘Jack’ position. However, the Saints are going to need him now more than ever in the third down passing situations that are so critical in the NFL. Kikaha’s injury gives him the chance to make plays and solidify his spot on the team for the future.