Indianapolis Colts’ linebacker Bobby Okereke familiarized himself well with the New York Giants in Week 17. The Giants defeated the Colts 38-10; still, Okereke jumped out on film and happened to have his second-highest graded Pro Football Focus game. Okereke had 13 tackles, six stops, and one elbow to the dome of Daniel Jones that caused an unnecessary roughness penalty.
That elbow may have slipped Jeff Saturday’s memory, but Okereke’s six stops did not slide past my attention. Okereke made several plays in the box and had the athletic ability to work sideline-to-sideline. He could, perhaps, do a better job absorbing Daniel Jones’ stiff arm, but the former Stanford Cardinal may prove to be a prudent, cost-effective alternative to Tremaine Edmunds. [Edmunds free agency profile]
New York’s glaring issues at linebacker are well-known. The 26-year-old might be the solution, albeit other teams could also have their eye on the young athletic linebacker.
Age: 27 in the 2023 season
Height: 6-foot-1 | Weight: 235
Position: Inside Linebacker
Experience: 4 seasons
2022 stats: 17 games | Tackles: (112) | Tackles for a loss: (6) | Stops: (53) | Pressures (3) | Passes defended: (4) | Reception percentage: (78.5 percent) | Missed tackles (18, 10.8 percent)
Like Tremaine Edmunds, Okereke is also freakishly long for a linebacker:
These baseline athletic traits and length would be welcomed at the second level of the Giants' defense.
The Colts played most of 2022 without star linebacker Shaquille Leonard; this forced Okereke and Zaire Franklin into a bigger role within Gus Bradley’s defense, and both players validated their skill sets in handling the responsibility. Okereke handled the WILL (weak-side) linebacker position for much of the season.
Indianapolis leveraged Okereke’s speed and pursuit to make plays in space while relying on his ability to scrape over blocks and position himself ideally to fit the run. The Colts were in Nickel personnel for 81.4 percent of their snaps last season. Indianapolis’ speed at linebacker allowed them to remain in nickel against lighter personnel.
Despite a dismal season for the Colts, their defense ranked 15th in overall defensive EPA (expected points added). Their defensive unit had a better total EPA than the Chiefs, Dolphins, and the New York Giants. It was the underrated defensive front stuck with an ineffective offense.
The credo of Joe Schoen: Smart, Tough, and Dependable. Not only did Okereke graduate from Stanford as a team captain, but he was also awarded the Watkins Award in high school; the award is provided to an African American athlete who excels in sports but also thrives in the academic environment.
Colts’ general manager Chris Ballard has also put a premium on players who are intelligent with the proper character. Okereke was an Eagle scout who also interned for former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. I’ll say this ... the Daniel Jones hit was not the best indication of said character.
Okereke’s only injuries were in 2020 when he missed two weeks with a rolled ankle. Okereke has played 970 defensive snaps or more in each of the past two season. Okereke has also gone north of 100 tackles in two consecutive seasons.
He’s done a good job recognizing offensive intentions and reacting downhill. He can operate in space, move sideline-to-sideline, and has enough strength and short-area movement skills to take on or avoid blocks within the tackle box.
Okereke would upgrade the Giants' linebacker corps. Spotrac.com has Okereke earning an average annual value of $2.3 million - that seems low, and I would expect a bit more than that price. If $2.3 million was the case, he would be on par with Micah Kiser (Raiders) or Corey Littleton (Panthers). At that price, sign me up all day!