Panthers rookie T Jeff Otah’s "Road Grader" Label Well-Earned

If you can draw anything from Panthers rookie RT Jeff Otah's first two games it's that this kids learning curve has been short. I would have assumed two games is way too early to gage Otah's potential until I read this from Eagles Legend Ron Jaworski:

 

Jaworski says one of the most impressive rookies he's watched while breaking down video is Panthers rookie right tackle Jeff Otah, drafted 19th overall following a trade of a 2008 first-round pick with the Philadelphia Eagles. "Otah really jumped out," Jaworski says. "He looked like a seasoned veteran. This guy's pretty special.

It didn't take much film to convince Jaws that Otah could very well be worth the price the Panthers traded to get him ...plus a bag of chips. So I decided to take another look myself. Here's a recap of Otah's performance in the Panthers first six offensive plays against the Bears. Keep in mind that overall the Panthers didn't have much success on these drives.

 1st & 10 - The Panthers run a HB dive on the A-gap between C Ryan Kalil and RG Keydrick Vincent. Kalil stood up the RDT and Vincent hit the middle LB. RT Jeff Otah locked up on the LDT #91 and drove back about 7 yards across the field. So who is #91? That would be Pro Bowl DT Tommie Harris. Again, on the very first play! Williams only gets two yards because the LDE Odunleye sheds TE Jeff's King block pretty quickly.

2nd & 8 - Quick pass to the right flat is complete. Otah drops back well and Ogunleye takes an inside move that would have been trouble if not for the quick pass.

3rd & 8 - The play starts with a false start by Otah (I didn't say the kid wasn't without rookie mistakes). 3rd & 13 - Shotgun formation, the Bears DT's run a stunt with the LDT circling around the LDE. Otah picks it up easily. The pass falls incomplete.

 

1st & 10 - Otah executes a nice cut block on DT Marcus Harrison on a stretch play to the right but the Bears pursue quickly to prevent a gain.

2nd & 10 - D-Will again goes up the A-gap but this time D-Will goes for 9 yards as the entire line executes their blocks. SS Payne makes the tackle. Otah again performed a flawless cut block on Harrison

3rd & 1 - Hoover hits the same A-gap and picks up three yards and the 1st down. The play ends with Otah driving the DT 6 yards downfield with Vincent not far behind.

I just ran across this post on the same topic (I swear I didn't see it before starting this post) that offers additional performance reviews of Otah.

I also wanted to see how Otah would hold up as the game went on. The temperature in North Carolina was around 90 degrees at game time, with humidity that made it feel more like 110. With 4:30 left in the third quarter, my question about Otah's ability to endure the conditions at his size was answered convincingly. The Bears were up, 17-6, but the Panthers were driving in Chicago territory. The Panthers lined up at the Chicago 25 in a full house ("inverted bone") formation with Hoover and King as the fullbacks. Stewart took the handoff from Delhomme and scattered right for 12 yards, while Otah pushed Lance Briggs a good 10 yards back against the play, helping to create the seam. That scoring drive featured more Stewart power running, and put the Panthers within 4 points.

Right now, Otah's your basic Power Tackle 1.0, maybe in the vein of Max Starks. He does have the drive and endurance you want in a player who does what he does, and his pass-blocking moves are reasonable at this time. The next challenge for Otah will be to adjust when defenders learn the moves that beat him on a regular basis. It seems like anything inside would have a good chance -- spin moves and such would be tough for him to adapt to. On the other hand, it's difficult to plan your next spin move when little birdies are circling your head following an Otah decleater, and that's what the Panthers are counting on. Between Otah's strength and Stewart's impressive ability to chew up yardage, the power's back on in Carolina.

So there you have it, a small sample but I think pretty representative of his overall performance in two games. That's 4 plays were he did his job and two plays were he demonstrated where he got the ‘road grader' label. He hasn't exactly lined up on any light weights either. No one will ever accuse Otah on not finishing his blocks because when he locks up on a guy forget it.

 The Eagles and their fans seem pretty happy with the trade too. It was a pretty steep price, a 2nd and 4th rounder this year and next years first. But Otah isn't just a guy plugging a glaring hole in the Panther line up. He's a guy turning what was a hole into one of the strengths of the offense. Being able to get a yard when you need it is a huge advantage in the NFL. Being able to get three is down right dominate.

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