Both literally and figuratively, one of the Las Vegas Raiders' biggest undrafted free agent signings this offseason is Bamidele Olaseni from Utah.
The 6’7” and 339-pound offensive tackle finds himself in a unique position for a rookie who slipped through the cracks of the NFL Draft. It’s no secret that the Raiders have an open competition at right tackle heading into training camp, and while Olaseni is a long shot to win the job, the opportunity is certainly there.
Part of the reason for that optimism is Olaseni had two opportunities to face some elite competition last season against Oregon pass rusher and the fifth overall pick of the draft, Kayvon Thibodeaux.
In their first matchup, the Duck got the better of the Ute as the latter registered one of his lowest overall PFF grades of the season (54.3), to go along with a below-average run-blocking grade (50.9). Granted, he did earn a respectable 68.8 mark in pass protection and only allowed one pressure, but the other two figures put a damper on the evening.
Round two was a completely different story, though. The Conference Championship game was one of Olaseni’s best performances of the season, posting grades of 80.0 overall and 86.5 as a run blocker. Coincidentally, he earned a 57.1 grade in pass protection but didn’t allow any pressures, which likely means he was getting beat but the quarterback got rid of the ball quickly.
With two outings that are polar opposites of each other, what made the difference between Olaseni’s strong performance and his poor one?
Week 12 Matchup
Bam Olaseni (LT) gets caught with some bad footwork vs Kayvon Thibodeaux pic.twitter.com/5LMAF0wQyq— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) May 19, 2022
Unfortunately, the best I can do for these games is the broadcast tape, but we’ll make do with what we got.
One major issue that Olaseni is going to have to fix in pass protection is his footwork. In this clip, he’s smart to use a 45-degree set to cut down on the space between him and Thibodeaux without flying out too wide and creating an inside rushing lane. However, everything after that goes south.
By about Olaseni’s second step, both of his feet are right next to each other and his heels are clicking so he has no base. To make matters worse, his hands are down by his waist which causes him to be late with his punch and allows Thibodeaux to get into his chest. Being 6’8” and playing with little to no knee bend allows the 6’4” rusher to gain a leverage advantage, further complicating the problem.
From there the Ute has little to no chance to win this rep, and he gets put on skates before eventually ending up on the ground. The ball was out quickly so nothing will show up on the stat sheet, but he won’t be able to get away with this for much longer.
Bam Olaseni (LT) does fine for the majority of the rep but has wide hands and stops his feet pic.twitter.com/4HmvS7cgJF— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) May 19, 2022
Utah runs a play-action pass here and Olaseni does a better job of keeping a nice wide base. He also does a good job of flashing his hands — that subtle fake punch right before making contact — to help throw off Thibodeaux’s timing. Since his base is much better, the tackle is actually able to sink his hips a bit and anchor against the rusher’s bull rush.
The problem is that Olaseni makes two major flaws, one with his hands and the other with his feet. He lands his punch wide on the outside of Thibodeaux’s shoulders, which isn’t the end of the world, but he needs to work to reset his hands and get them inside so Thibodeaux doesn’t have control of his chest.
As for the Utah product’s feet, he stops them after surviving the bull rush and since the rusher has control of his chest, he can’t say in front of the rusher against the outside counter. Olaseni could also afford to work on his balance and core strength so that he can stay upright when defenders start to work off his blocks, in pass protection like this rep or as a run blocker.
Now, this isn’t the end of the world as it does take Thibodeaux a long time to win. But the offensive line is getting help from the run fake and this is a deep shot where the offense is expecting the big guys to hold up for a while.
Bam Olaseni (LT) gets a lazy at the end of the game and gives up the inside to Thibodeaux pic.twitter.com/kQHgOox774— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) May 19, 2022
Here, we’re going to see another example of Olaseni’s feet failing him and a little laziness toward the end of a game that granted, is pretty much over at this point.
On the backside of an inside zone run, the tackle needs to gain ground to the play side — the right in this instance — with his first step. However, Olaseni steps forward, stands straight up and doesn’t even take a second step. And to top it all off, he finishes with the ole’ red rover technique, and that’ll be five minutes for hooking.
While getting beat this badly wasn’t an every-down occurrence on the backside, he did consistently have poor footwork that got exposed.
PAC 12 Championship
Bam Olaseni (LT) with much better hand placement to get the better of Thibs this time pic.twitter.com/XTtdljiyNZ— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) May 19, 2022
Luckily, we get the end zone view for this clip and it’s a great example of the difference between Olaseni failing and succeeding in pass protection.
He uses a 45-degree set again and his base is better like the second clip above, but what stands out the most is his hand placement. This time, the tackle has his hands inside which helps keep the pass rusher off his chest and defend against the bull rush. Plus, he does a much better job of keeping his feet moving and then riding the rusher’s hip to push the rusher past the quarterback.
Bam Olaseni (LT) creates a cutback lane for a 1st down pic.twitter.com/apP3v5QHkt— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) May 19, 2022
Alright, our final clips aren’t against Thibodeaux as a lot of Olaseni’s noteworthy blocks in the Conference Championship came against other defenders, but let’s be honest, you’re here to see what the Raiders’ signing can do anyway.
This is another zone run from Utah and our subject is going to be on the backside again. Watch how he’s quick off the ball and gains ground to the play side with his first few steps. That allows him to be in a position to cut off the defensive tackle, and he flips his hips and has the strength to seal and create a backside cutback lane.
A dominant rep that leads to a first down.
Bam Olaseni (LT) is nasty on combo blocks and basically gets a 2 for 1 here pic.twitter.com/ffFr2qcydW— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) May 19, 2022
One thing that even stood out even in the previous game is the Ute can be nasty on combo blocks.
On this split zone, he and the guard are responsible for the three-technique (defensive tackle at the top of the screen) and the middle linebacker (standing on the hash mark). The guard does a good job getting some vertical movement on the three-tech, and Olaseni comes in aggressively and with low pad level to wash the defensive lineman down and pick the linebacker.
He essentially gets a two for one here and helps move the chains once again.
3rd & 1, Bam Olaseni (LT) gets about 4 yards of push pic.twitter.com/4zmhzMsdfC— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) May 19, 2022
There isn’t much to this next clip, but I just wanted to show an example of how much more aggressive and physical Olaseni was compared to the last game. It’s third and short at the beginning of the fourth quarter and Utah can really put the game away with another first down and a score. The tackle fires off the ball and gets about four yards of push when his team needs it, and that’s how you can break or shatter a defense’s spirit.