Charles Omenihu flew under the radar a bit last season after the 49ers acquired him from the Texans, but 2022 could prove to be a breakout-kind of year.
The San Francisco 49ers are hoping one of their less talked-about transactions from 2021 can wind up being a massive coup, the Nov. 2 trade with the Houston Texans for defensive end Charles Omenihu.
By sending a 2023 sixth-round NFL Draft pick to Houston for the former University of Texas product, the Niners immediately strengthened their defensive line but also set themselves up to have a spot starter and rotational player carrying over into this upcoming season.
Perhaps more, assuming Omenihu winds up showcasing his talents amid a talented San Francisco D-line.
|3 yr||3 yr||HOU||35||7||0||4||2||0||7.0||30||19||14||8||24|
|1 yr||1 yr||SFO||9||0||0||1||0.0||0||0||1|
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com
Turning 25 years old before the start of the regular season, the 6-foot-5 and 280-pound Omenihu still has potential to reach, and it’s possible the 49ers are leaving the door open for him to be a base-down starter.
And with an uptick in field time, could Omenihu be another one of those risers who seemingly came out of nowhere?
Why Charles Omenihu winds up thriving with 49ers
The Niners aren’t necessarily looking at Omenihu being a top-end pass-rusher or three-down lineman in 2022, yet he has the ability to serve in such a capacity as needed.
With fellow edge rusher Nick Bosa regularly moving around the D-line but frequently now lining up opposite opposing teams’ right tackles on the strong side of the formation, Omenihu is likely to see more action on the weak side, the LEO deployment.
Omenihu should be comfortable doing this, as 167 of his 355 total defensive snaps last year were in this spot, per Pro Football Focus, which awarded him a decent 67.7 overall grade in 2021 with both the Texans and San Francisco.
However, Omenihu’s 81.8 pass-rush grade last year stands out despite him not recording an actual sack.
With an increased role and a better supporting cast, one might expect those sack numbers to improve.
Why Charles Omenihu ends up being something of a forgotten 49ers commodity
Not necessarily a prolific pass-rusher by any means, it’s nevertheless his primary strength. And if there’s one area in need of improvement, it might be in Omenihu’s run-defense skills, which PFF graded out at 47.0 last year, split between the two teams.
Missed tackles have been the primary culprit, as he’s had nine of them over his three-year career, and that could ultimately keep him from being a base-down defender if he can’t shore up the edge against outside rushes.
And considering the 49ers are likely much more invested in developing their top rookie from the 2022 NFL Draft, EDGE Drake Jackson, Omenihu could watch his own role decrease significantly if he can’t cut out his run-stopping deficiencies.
Charles Omenihu’s chances of making 49ers’ 53-man roster, projected role in 2022
Despite some potentially high upside, Omenihu is no guarantee to make the Niners’ 53-man roster.
According to Over the Cap, the defensive end is scheduled to make up to $2.54 million this season before being pegged for free agency in 2023, yet none of that would count as dead money if he’s let go at any point this season.
So, financially speaking, San Francisco could easily part ways with Omenihu if it identifies better, cheaper options elsewhere on the roster.
If Omenihu does survive roster cuts, though, he’ll likely be battling it out with fellow defensive ends like Jackson, Samson Ebukam and Kerry Hyder, among others, who’ll all be looking to carve out rotational roles along the D-line. Considering the 49ers have maintained this practice of rotating linemen frequently, one might assume their investment in Omenihu a year ago would translate into a niche role at minimum with the opportunity to be involved in the rotation to a sizable degree.
That’s what both Omenihu and the Niners are hoping for this season, perhaps all that translating into a career-best year.