Pro Football Focus, one of the best websites for football analysis, is a believer in Wake Forest’s Duke Ejiofor. PFF believes that Ejiofor is one of the top 25 breakout performers in the country.
Injuries slowed Ejiofor down last season, but once he got back on the field in week six, he was Wake Forest’s most productive defensive linemen. Ejiofor’s strong hand usage allowed him to post a +13.4 pass rush grade as he picked up four sacks, two QB hits, and 16 hurries on only 207 rushes. He still has room to improve against the run, but with a full season of action, Ejiofor will be one of the ACC’s best pass rushers by year’s end.
Duke, who played in just 7 contests last season, had a clear impact on the team’s defense when he returned. He greatly improved the overall pass rush, and should help it even more this season. If Ejiofor can become a more consistent pass rusher, he will help out the entire defense. I, like Pro Football Focus, believe that will happen this season.
Wake forced just 11 turnovers (6 interceptions) last season, and the lack of turnovers can be attributed to lack of a pass rush. Far too often opposing quarterbacks had ample time to read Wake’s defense and then methodically pick it apart. With Duke generating a stronger pass rush, then that will force opposing quarterbacks to make decisions faster, which should lead to an increase in interceptions. Those interceptions should translate to improved field position opportunities, which should lead to an increase in points.
Clearly some butterfly effect logic going on there, but offense and defense are not played in vacuums. Great offenses give defenses longer time to rest, improve field position, etc., so they certainly can help or hurt each other. Ejiofor’s impact should be tremendous, and it will improve the entire team’s performance.