Traditional power backs have slowly become a lost art in today’s age of professional football. Derrick Henry comes chiefly to mind when thinking of rough run-and-tumblers, but he represents an anomaly when it comes to primary alpha RBs.
As NFL offenses have widened their scope and relied more heavily upon lethal playmakers on the outside, the Earl Campbell’s, Mike Alstott’s and Christian Okoye’s of the world have given way to more multifaceted threats like Le’Veon Bell and Christian McCaffrey.
The more tools you can provide coming out of the backfield – be it running, receiving or blocking — the more your number will be called upon, and no attribute has become more valuable to young RB prospects than versatility.
Cowboys RB Sewo Olonilua has certainly showcased that trait throughout the team’s camp activities these past few weeks. Thursday night, he got a chance to put those attributes on full display in front of the nation, and a few of football’s golden greats.
Olonilua’s stat-line doesn’t necessarily jump out at you, he gained just one yard on two carries coming out of the backfield against Pittsburgh’s staunch defense, and hauled in a pass reception for 17 yards. The catch ended up being one of Dallas’ largest chunk plays as they struggled to ignite the burners offensively, but it wasn’t his exploits with the ball that got Olonilua a nod from the broadcaster’s booth.
Troy Aikman hurled tremendous praise Olonilua’s way after the TCU product lowered his pads and immersed himself in numerous gauntlet trench fights with oncoming foes, showing a steady fervor to engage in contact and get his pants dirty. The Cowboys quarterbacks were scrambling like decapitated chickens all night, but the Steel Curtain D would’ve had a few more sacks than their total of four had it not been for Olonilua’s efforts.
At 6’3, 240 lbs, Olonilua is just a tick below Derrick Henry weight-wise.
He’s an absolute powerhouse, with lower body strength that rivals linemen (he boasts a 700 lb squat).
And while his skillset won’t jump out at you in the speed or agility department, Olonilua is a workhorse that can line up as an H-back, tight end, FB or HB. He blocks, he catches, and though we haven’t seen much of him out of the backfield, coach McCarthy’s said he can run the pigskin too.
The only downside is he’s a cog in an incredibly loaded backfield for Dallas right now, just one of seven men that comprise the ‘Boys depth chart of RBs/FBs.
But the bright side, in his case, is that if he continues to make ripples by doing the little things, his cumulative productional wave will be one that will be quite hard to ignore.