Like Devin Bush, Kevin Dotson, and others, OT Chukwuma Okorafor made his 2021 debut Thursday night against the Eagles. Check out his PFF grades and you’ll have a negative picture painted of his performance.
But when I watch the tape, I don’t see a player who had a terrible day. It wasn’t a great one, but if you dive into his reps, you saw a lineman who had a serviceable performance. Let’s break it down with a focus on his pass pro, where PFF graded him out the worst.
Okorafor is the left tackle in all of these clips.
1st and 10 in the first quarter. Facing the wide-aligned RDE. Okorafor gets into his pass set. The defender tries to get into his chest and long-arm him but Okorafor absorbs it. The RDE sheds and tries to rip through to the outside. But Okorafor keeps his base and moves laterally to slide him upfield.
Keeps the pocket clean for Mason Rudolph who hits JuJu Smith-Schuster for a successful play on first down.
Later on in the drive. Again, the RDE tries to get into his chest. Okorafor traps and knocks down the long arm and steers the RDE upfield running him above QB depth and sealing the edge. A “plus” rep here.
Late in the first quarter. Strong anchor here. You can see him flash his right hand to get the defender to shoot his. Okorafor is able to play with tight, controlled hands to anchor and win the block.
Another example here. Okorafor with the better hand placement here. In the defender’s chest, who is flailing and never gets in control of the rush. Good base, sinking his hips, and he’s about the only linemen who did their job on this play as Mason Rudolph gets crushed.
Similar story here mid-way through the second quarter. Okorafor builds his house, playing with a good base. Keeps his feet moving to mirror the rush and controls the block from snap to throw.
To be fair, it was far from a perfect performance. His worst rep came here. The RDE uses a speed/ghost rush and Okorafor misses on his punch, whiffing and quickly giving up the edge. He gets bailed out by Rashaad Coward, head on a swivel, who shoves him upfield before he can get to Mason Rudolph.
Good rep here from the defender but a definite loss from Okorafor.
Okorafor’s final rep was a mixed bag. The RDE uses a solid inside spin move hear to beat Okorafor inside. Has a two-way go here and there’s a lot of space with the Steelers’ full slide, the LG sliding away from Okorafor. Thought Okorafor could’ve done a better job setting up inside with the back releasing wide. If the rusher tried to win the edge, he would’ve been bumped by Jaylen Samuels’ leaking out.
But I like Okorafor’s recovery here. The RDE tries to use the ‘ice pick” and lock out Okorafor’s inside arm/hand. But Okorafor is able to break through it and get his hand into the defender’s chest, steering him down the line just enough to allow Dwayne Haskins to roll to his left.
I assume this is the lone hurry PFF has Okorafor charged for. And it’s fair to charge him as such. But there was a positive in this rep, him being able to recover and fight until the end. We’ve seen Alex Highsmith be able to finish this spin for a sack. Okorafor avoids disaster here.
Context is important too. This is Okorafor’s first game of the season. He missed the start of training camp with a minor injury and had only returned fully to practice earlier in the week. That’s a lot of time away from playing a game so there’s predictably some rust to knock off. To be fair, this is the Eagles first preseason game so they were coming in “cold” too, but I wouldn’t expect Okorafor to be perfect in his first game of the season and first game starting at left tackle in awhile.
Overall, Okorafor had an average performance. Not a great one. But one that wasn’t nearly as bad as many fans – and myself – thought after first watch. One bad rep can make it feel like a player had an ugly game, especially an offensive linemen. And while Dan Moore Jr. did have a strong showing, nothing Okorafor did or didn’t do has me second-guessing if he will start at left tackle Week 1.