Sunday, December 04, 2005

By Imtiaz Mussa

NFL Draft Day 2003: I was actually at Shea Stadium getting ready to watch the Mets take on the Arizona Diamondbacks. The pitching matchup was Tom Glavine versus Brandon Webb. My buddy Theo and I get through the turnstiles and pick up our complementary caps and proceed to our seats. It had been raining earlier in the day but we were hoping that there would be enough of a window to get the game in. As it turns out, no such luck. I proceed to exchange my tickets for a game against the San Francisco Giants on August 14. (Yeah, Blackout Day in New York.) I make my way back to Manhattan just in time to see the middle of the second round of the NFL Draft. I check the board and see that the Giants have picked William Joseph in the first round and I’m pretty satisfied. We needed a defensive tackle. I also see that safety Mike Doss has yet to be picked. Feeling that the G-Men needed help at the position, I start to salivate at the possibility of adding him to Shaun Williams and the Wills in the secondary. Here comes the announcement, “the Giants select… OSI UMENYIORA, defensive end, Troy State.” My roommates proceed to laugh at me as I had convinced myself that Doss would be the pick. It took about eight games for me to realize that this guy would be the real deal and now, the rest of the viewing public is starting to as well.

Umenyiora was known in college as a pure speed rusher off the end. People figured that he would stay in that spot and be a situational guy. But when you play with the complete defensive end in football and future Hall of Famer in Michael Strahan, you have to learn something. Heading into today’s game against the Cowboys, the third-year pro leads the NFC in sacks with 10 through 11 games. Seven have come in the last five weeks, including two last week in a 24-21 overtime loss at Seattle. He also has 50 tackles and two forced fumbles.

With him and Strahan on the other end, offensive lines have a hard time stopping both. Just ask Seattle offensive tackle Walter Jones, who had yet to allow a sack this season until the Giants visited the Seahawks. Umenyiora managed to get by him. The Giants secondary is the weak link on this team. But when you have a duo of ends like these two, you can drop a linebacker back without worrying about a lack of rush or bring the linebacker or safety on a blitz to really hurry the QB. The reason why the Giants are a very good defensive unit has everything to do with number 72. Send him to the Pro Bowl and learn how to say his name! Being a guy with a hard to say name as well, (I don’t know why) I took the time and actually learned it very quickly. Here’s the pronunciation of the last name: You-Men-yora

When the thought of Michael Strahan and retirement crossed my mind, I did get worried. But now with Umenyiora, it is fair to say that the Giants will have a great defensive end on the team long after number 92 hangs it up.


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