Houston Texans: The Future of Duke Ejiofor
By Max Freedman
Pass rusher Duke Ejiofor has had rough start with the Houston Texans thus far.
Duke Ejiofor was drafted by the Houston Texans in the sixth round in 2018, but it wasn’t without some injury concerns. He missed the Senior Bowl due to shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum and missed five games in Wake Forest due to a concussion. He also missed the last two games of the season due to injury as a redshirt freshman. Now, Ejiofor is due to missing the entire 2019 season because of a torn Achilles suffered in the offseason.
The Texans covet versatility in the trenches. J.J. Watt and D.J. Reader played multiple positions in the defensive line in Romeo Crennel’s scheme. 2019 fifth rounder Charles Omenihu and Ejiofor both fitted that billing as well. Ejiofor was capable of lining up on multiple positions in the defensive line in college and had the ability to do it a high level.
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Texans didn’t bring back Christian Covington, which opened a competition between Brandon Dunn and a rising player for snaps. Dunn is currently slotted at defensive tackle, but Omenihu shining on the interior or on the outside could change that in a hurry, the latter would kick Reader back inside.
I scouted Ejiofor’s tape again this season to compare him as a prospect to some of the other options in the draft. He graded out at 92nd overall, and the ninth-best defensive end. For comparison, Omenihu graded out at 51st overall, as the fifth-best defensive end, but Ejiofor had the edge having a season under his belt in against NFL talent.
The question moving forward becomes what to do with Ejiofor since his injury is similar to running back D’Onta Foreman in 2017. Both showed flashes of being the future contributors, but they suffered Achilles tears before their second season. The defensive line is one of the most important positions after running back to display quick explosive traits.
There were concerns entering this season regarding Foreman’s ability to return at the level he was with Lamar Miller entering the last year of his contract. Ejiofor had the upside to be a solid player, but he has struggled to stay healthy over the course of his career. With Achilles injuries being incredibly difficult to gauge, it’s tough to determine where Ejiofor will be next season from a physical standpoint.
The depth along the defensive line is undoubtedly deeper than in the running back room. Watt, Reader, Dunn, and Angelo Blackson make up the four guys in the rotation for playing time. Now add Omenihu to the mix, and the possibility of someone like Carlos Watkins, a 2017 fourth rounder making the jump to being a formidable player along the line, Ejiofor’s future is questionable.
Should the front office give him the opportunity to return and prove himself, a healthy Ejiofor will likely justify their decision but the arduous recovery process will be a first of many issues he will face as he works his way into football shape. As Hall of Fame safety Brian Dawkins said, “The best ability is availability”.
Regardless, Omenihu’s play this year, Ejiofor’s recovery process could both have a huge impact on whether or not he will be in a Texans uniform again.