Many people say that in order to be the best, you have to beat the best. But in terms of football, learning from some of your best peers works just as well. Entering his second season in the NFL, Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi has taken it upon himself to develop his game the last two offseasons. In order to learn, improve, and continuously do whatever he can to find the best techniques and ways to disrupt the opposing offense’s backfield, the former third-round pick has worked with Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins during the last two summers.
“When I first got drafted here, I called up Chip Smith Performance in Atlanta, and I just wanted to get around some NFL guys. Chip told me that Geno was working there. I kind of just went out on a limb, got my hotel room, booked a rental car, got a flight and shot out to Atlanta,” Ogunjobi said. “I did not know if Geno was going to rock with me or was going to help me out, but he welcomed me with open arms and has been like my big brother ever since.”
After doing so his first offseason in 2017, he decided to do so again this past summer. You can never learn enough from a six-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro and the 6-foot-3, 305-pound defensive tackle realizes that. The more he learns from Atkins, whether it’s on the field, in the film room, or anything else, the more he can improve his game going forward.
“Even now, I trained with him this past offseason in Atlanta every day on my pass rushes, I am always sending him film to help me critique my game, tell me what I need to work on. If things are going a certain way, I just call him for advice,” Ogunjobi said of Atkins. “We talk every day about the goals I have, the things I have in place for myself and the things that I want to accomplish this year.”
With just 14 games and one start under his belt, the Browns defensive tackle still has plenty to learn, both on and off the field. The more he improves, the more snaps and playing time he will receive. It just all comes down to how much he can improve his game and learn from not only watching film, but watching Atkins, who has basically become a personal mentor to the 24-year-old.
“It is good to have someone who has already done it who is in the position you want to be in be better and have somebody leading you along the way. He is a really good mentor. He is like my big brother.”
During his rookie season, Ogunjobi totaled 17 tackles (15 assists), and one sack. As a defensive tackle, his main focus is to take on as many blockers as possible, all while clogging up the middle of the line as well. The more he can force the opposing offensive line to focus on him, the more room his teammates—specifically Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah—have to get to the quarterback. Tackles and sacks are important, but it’s not the be-all-end-all for a defensive tackle.
— DLineVids (@DLineVids) June 23, 2018
There’s a reason why Atkins has continually been one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL. Whether it’s getting to the quarterback and either sacking him or at least putting pressure on the gunslinger, taking up multiple blockers or a number of other things, the Bengal is among the league’s best at his position.
Ogunjobi practicing with and learning from a guy like Atkins not only shows maturity, but it also proves that he will do anything in order to better his game. If the second-year Brown can become the next Atkins or at least something close, the Browns defensive line can give opposing offensive linemen nightmares for years to come.
WFNY’s Jake Burns did an informative and very good breakdown of what made Ogunjobi successful in 2017 and what will allow him to continue that success in 2018.