While people love to get excited about rookies, I don’t know that there is any player about which fans are more enthusiastic than Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, the second-year outside linebacker out of Toledo who spent most of his rookie season on the Reserve/Injured List a year ago for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Devin Bush is the lone possible exception.
With both T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree not dressing, Adeniyi started for the defense on Friday night, the coaching staff hoping he can turn things on as he has in practice. Admittedly, he took some snaps to warm up, particularly against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ starters on the first drive, as you can see on the following play.
A few plays into the game, Jameis Winston completes a short pass to the running back for a four-yard gain on first down. Adeniyi shows a good break off the ball and gets a slight initial push against Donovan Smith, the left tackle, but is able to immediately anchor and stops him in his tracks. It may appear there’s a hold here, but really, it looks pretty clean to me as Adeniyi jerks himself around trying to get free.
Later on the same drive, however, he does win, as you can see below. Rather than trying to work through the tight end, he turns to a dip and rip move, getting under the pads and getting an angle on Winston. Here, it does look like he gets held by the jersey once he slips by, which contributes to the quarterback being able to spin out of the pressure and scramble for a first down.
Late in the first quarter, Adeniyi has moved to the left side. He executes the same move as on the previous play, showing an excellent ability to disengage from the initial point of contact, and gets a free run at Blaine Gabbert. The quarterback gets the throw out, but pays for it, and the ball sails deep and incomplete, out of harm’s way.
One of his highlight plays, of course, came a few plays later at the top of the second quarter. Set up with a fourth and one, truth be told, Adeniyi is left pretty much clean coming against the running back, joining Bush in making the tackle for loss. Certainly appears to be an error in judgement or assignment on the tight end’s part, given the down, distance, and play call.
One last play I’ll look at comes in the middle of the third quarter, Adeniyi still trickling in for some reps. Back on the right side, this time he drops in coverage. The outside linebacker hasn’t always looked comfortable in coverage, but he does a decent enough job here, showing some fluidity and keeping his eyes in the backfield.
It was a good overall, but not spectacular showing for Adeniyi, certainly encouraging and another indication of the fact that he is deserving of playing time. He performed well against a high level of competition, and that’s all you can ask for, even if it is the preseason.