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Scouting Jets Offensive Lineman Obinna Eze

Taking a look at a Jets offensive lineman prospect

NFL: AUG 25 Preseason - Lions at Panthers Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Jets signed offensive lineman Obinna Eze to their practice squad a few weeks ago and then to a futures deal after the season. Today we’re going to break Eze down in detail.

The 25-year old Eze is listed at 6’8” and 325 pounds and was undrafted out of TCU in 2022. He has yet to make his NFL debut and the Jets are his third NFL team.

Background

Eze grew up in Nigeria and moved to the USA in 2015, but initially wanted to become a basketball player. However, he started playing football in 2016 and established himself as a four-star recruit in just one season.

Having been recruited to Memphis, Eze redshirted the 2017 season and then saw limited action off the bench in 2018. However, he became a full-time starter the following season and started all 25 games in 2019 and 2020.

For the 2021 season, Eze headed to TCU as a graduate transfer and was an honorable mention for the Big-12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year award. Some analysts had him ranked as a possible late round pick.

Eze attended the scouting combine and the East-West Shrine Bowl, but he did not get selected in the 2022 NFL draft. The Lions signed him as an undrafted free agent and he headed to camp with them and played in all three preseason games.

Having been released in final cuts, Eze spent the entire 2022 season on Detroit’s practice squad, then signed a futures deal after the season, but was again released in final cuts this August.

He spent three weeks on the Steelers’ practice squad in October before signing onto the Jets’ practice squad last month. Eze signed a futures deal with the Jets after the end of the season.

Now let’s take a look at what Eze brings to the table, divided into categories.

Measurables/Athleticism

Eze’s standout trait is his exceptional length. In addition to being tall, he has 36.5-inch arms. At the scouting combine, he ran an impressive 5.17 in the 40-yard dash and posted explosiveness numbers which were solid for his size. However, his strength and agility numbers were poor.

At his pro day, he improved his short shuttle time by almost a tenth of a second and his three-cone drill by almost two-tenths, but couldn’t improve upon any of his other numbers.

His upper body strength is solid, but he is quite lanky and could perhaps benefit from adding some mass to his lower half.

Usage

Eze has never played inside, but he has played on both sides of the line. In college he was primarily a left tackle, but he played 100 snaps on the right and three as a tight end in unbalanced line formations.

At the NFL level, he has seen plenty of action on the left and on the right in his six preseason appearances.

Pass Blocking

Over the course of his college career, Eze did a solid job of limiting pressure, but he did give up 10 sacks in his three seasons as a starter.

That included three sacks in one game in 2021, as he really struggled to stay in front of FAU’s Felix Anudike-Uzomah, who was a first round draft pick in April. Apart from this, he only gave up one sack all season.

Eze has also given up a couple of sacks in preseason action. He definitely seems to have more problems with speed rushers going around him than he does in terms of dealing with power or inside-counter moves.

He has some good upper body strength and uses his length well, but Eze can be exploited by experienced pass rushers who possess an array of moves.

Run Blocking

Eze was a productive run blocker in college, but he’s been inconsistent in preseason action at the NFL level.

He’s not bad at hitting a target in space and can drive his man out of a play once he gets control of his block.

Blocking on the move is more challenging for him, as he lacks lateral range and natural athleticism in his first step.

Short Yardage

Eze is an option to run behind in short yardage situations with his big body. The Lions twice scored on short touchdown runs with him in the game during preseason action. One was just a quarterback sneak, but he did a solid job on this one.

Screen Blocking

Eze didn’t have much experience of getting out in front of screens, as he played on two teams in college that used a lot of receiver screens and shallow screens where he would usually stay in to pass block.

He showed willingness to get out in front on this play from preseason, but was perhaps over-eager as he got himself flagged for an ineligible receiver downfield penalty.

Footwork/Technique

As ever with a player of his size, Eze will at times lean into his target, enabling his man to shed his block, and pad level will always be an issue he needs to be wary of.

In pass protection, he suffers from a two-pronged issue that means speed rushers can exploit him. Firstly, his footwork can be too slow when he’s dropping into his stance.

Secondly, he sometimes has a tendency to be late with his hands, keeping them too low so he doesn’t slow his man down and make the best use of his excellent length.

When he does get in the first punch, it can be effective, so there are some signs that he has a good fundamental foundation which can be improved upon if he can work at his balance and coordination.

Penalties

Other than the illegal man downfield penalty mentioned above, Eze hasn’t had a penalty in NFL preseason action. However, he did have 18 in his three years as a starter in college. Only four of those came in his final season, though, so his on-field discipline showed signs of improvement.

One of those four penalties was an unsportsmanlike call for jumping on an opponent who was down.

Special Teams

Eze has only seen special teams work as a blocker on the placekicking unit so far in his college and pro career. He had one special teams penalty in 2019.

Instincts/Intelligence

Eze seems to have a good approach towards handling his assignments and isn’t someone who will panic and over-extend in pass protection.

He shows some good signs of being capable of picking up stunts, games and blitzers in some of his game film.

Eze was a good student, who was a three-time member of the Memphis 3.0 club, a two-time all-AAC all-Acamedic selection, a member of the 2019 Dean’s List and an early graduate.

Attitude

Eze has done remarkably well to make it this far after having only started playing football in 2016, but as a potential late round pick, he’ll be disappointed not to have made it onto an NFL field for regular season action thus far in his career.

However, Dan Campbell alluded to the fact that Eze needed to get into football shape and get used to working harder in practice, albeit while acknowledging how difficult this is for a player of his size.

Eze was named as a team captain for one game in 2021 and was said to have exhibited good leadership traits after transferring to TCU.

Injuries

Eze hasn’t been bothered by injuries so far in his career, starting all 37 games his teams played in his final three college seasons and all six of the preseason games that he was on the Lions roster for.

He did limp off during a Memphis game against UCF and spent the rest of the game on the sideline, but he didn’t miss the next start.

Scheme Fit

Eze has played on teams that were run-heavy and used a lot of RPOs, so he perhaps isn’t as experienced in terms of his ability to pass block in an NFL system as you’d like.

While he was at Memphis, he was a teammate of current Jets free agent Bryce Huff and he played with Bruce Hector, Austin Seibert and Tae Hayes while on the Lions.

Conclusions

Since he was a late starter, Eze may still have some untapped potential, and he clearly has some traits that would have any offensive line coach eager to work with him.

The Lions were obviously keen to get the first crack at him, since they made him their highest paid undrafted free agent in 2022. However, after two training camps, they opted not to retain him on the practice squad.

For the Jets, it’s likely a case of seeing whether the Lions were premature to cut ties with Eze and if they can turn him into anything.

The best case scenario for someone with Eze’s length and inexperience would be an arc like that of Jordan Mailata, who was drafted by the Eagles while Joe Douglas was still with the organization. However, Mailata was a full-time, first choice starter in his age-24 season and Eze is already 25, so the clock is ticking.