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Arizona Cardinals’ Alex Okafor Looking to Make Impact

July 20th, 2013 at 8:09 AM
By Steve Smith

Rookie Alex Okafor is moving from defensive end to outside linebacker in the Arizona Cardinals' 3-4 defensive scheme this upcoming season. The University of Texas product was drafted in the fourth round (103rd overall pick) in this year's NFL Draft.

The 6-foot-4, 264-pounder had 12.5 sacks and 54 tackles for the Longhorns in his senior campaign in 2012. He should help the Red Birds' pass rush considerably and help create turnovers. Okafor forced four fumbles last season with the Longhorns. He can only help an Arizona squad that forced 33 turnovers in 2012.

Let's take a look at his strengths and weaknesses via per nfl.com:

Strengths: Already possesses NFL size and length, and has room on his frame for growth. Powerful punch and arm extension takes linemen into the backfield and allow him to hold up and split double-teams. Gets off the ball quite well, will challenge the upside shoulder of right tackles and can step inside to get into the B-gap as a counter move. Flashes quick hands to move past tackles on his way to the quarterback or disengage to chase plays to his side. Can get low to swallow running backs coming into his area and stop quickly to rein in quarterbacks before they step out of the pocket. Feels the cut block an defeats it with his hands. Good hustle to the sideline and downfield to chase ball carriers.

Weaknesses: Best as a strong-side 4-3 end providing strength against the run and some pass rush, lacks short-area quickness to play standing up in the NFL. Runs high and stiff when dropping into coverage or trying to change directions quickly in the open field. Gets stuck on some man-up blocks, allowing running backs to run around him instead shedding to make a play.

NFL Comparison: Ray Edwards.

Bottom Line: Okafor offers a different skill set than what many of his 2013 peers put forward, powerful hands and length to press and attack. He dealt with an ankle injury in 2012 and was forced to miss his first start in 33 consecutive games, but Okafor certainly finished the season on a high with 4.5 sacks in the school's bowl game against Oregon State. 

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Tags: Alex Okafor, Arizona, Arizona Cardinals, Football, NFL, Ray Edwards

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