“David and R.J. both are having a heck of a camp, Wright said earlier this week. “I’m really pleased with where they’re at. I said earlier in the summer that I thought they’d both have a heck of a year this year and up to this point, they’re trying to prove me right. I’m really pleased with the way they’re working. I think they’re going to be two of the better ones in the league.”
When asked if the next two defensive ends in line for playing time were Ndulue and junior college transfer Chaz Nelson, Wright immediately praised Ndulue, but didn’t carry the same type of praise for Nelson.
SCOOPHD: R.J. WASHINGTON TALKS ABOUT DE POSITION
“Chuka has probably separated himself from the rest of the pack,” Wright answered. “Chuka’s a solid third guy. The two youngs guys that are in here are making a lot of progress - Charles Tapper and Michael Onuoha.”
It was interesting that Wright then went to two other players before mentioning Nelson - converted linebackers P.L. Lindley and Rashod Favors.
“The other guys that are looking pretty good right now are P.L. Lindley and Rashod Favors. They’re really starting to come on and giving us some depth at that position,” he explained. “Those are strong guys that can run pretty good and obviously moving from the linebacker position they give us some pretty good depth there with guys that have some athletic ability.
“If you look at them size wise, they wouldn’t be your prototypical defensive end. You wouldn’t necessarily recruit those guys at defensive ends, but they’ve proven they’re athletic enough and they’re going to be able to help us and give us some good quality depth.”
Nelson received high praise at the end of last spring. It’s possible Wright is pushing the junior harder than the rest. So I asked Wright specifically what he needs to see more out of Nelson.
“He’s a little bit undersized,” answered Wright. “That’s kind of what’s hurting him right now. He’s only 240 pounds and he’s overmatched a little bit. He’s got to become more physical.
“Athletically he is pretty good. He can run, he can move around and those type of things. He’s got to get better as a pass rusher and he was an excellent pass rusher in junior college but we’ve moved up a level. The task is a little more difficult and he’s gonna be going against better players and he’s gotta raise his level of play.”
As for Tapper and Onuoha, Wright hasn’t ruled out playing either of the talented true freshmen if he needs specialists in pass rushing situations.
“I’m really happy with where they’re at as freshmen because you know how tough the learning curve is for those true freshmen in there,” said Wright. “They’re battling and fighting hard. Physically they’re ready to play. But if they can get the learning process done, they can help us right now.”
Wright is looking for plenty of specialists this season. He’d like to continue putting King in a defensive tackle position on passing downs and bring in talented pass rushers like Tapper or Onuoha.
Both have made tremendous strides since basically making the transition from basketball players to football players late in their high school careers.
“He’s still a skinny guy with that frame, but he’s going to be a big man,” Wright said of Onuoha. “He’s up to about 245 now and he still looks skinny. That’s good. He’ll end up carrying 265 and not be fat at all. Tapper is already 250 and he’ll end up being a 265 guy as well. Both of those guys have a bright future ahead of them.”
Right now it appears King, Washington and Ndulue are all set to be a part of the regular rotation. But it seems to be a logjam for that fourth spot between Lindley, Favors and Nelson at this point in camp.
We’ll have to wait and see how involved Tapper and Onuoha become in the gameplan as fall practice continues.