Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Will 49ers DE Charles Omenihu be the Arden Key of 2022?

Rohan Chakravarthi
Jul 25, 2022 at 3:45 PM--

Last season, the 49ers found a defensive revelation in edge-rusher Arden Key, who blossomed into a force with eight sacks in 2022, while showcasing versatility not only on the edge as a pass-rusher, but also on the interior, where his quickness worked well against guards and centers.

Key signed a one-year deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2022, leaving a hole along the 49ers' defensive line. Could his replacement be defensive end Charles Omenihu?

Omenihu, a midseason acquisition from the Houston Texans at the trade deadline last offseason, has a year remaining on his contract and is entering his second season with the 49ers.

Omenihu, speaking with Brad Graham of TheSFNiners, acknowledged the difference schematically between his former and current team, which led to a bit of an adjustment period during last season for the 24-year-old edge rusher.

"It's a little different, coming in playing a traditional five-technique, six-technique, and then coming here and not doing that, being so wide, it's a little different," Omenihu said. "Something that you just gotta continue to practice, not something you just jump into and think 'I'm gonna be good'. You gotta continue to practice and practice and get your reps in and once you do, you see why guys are successful here and why everywhere [defensive line coach] Kris [Kocurek] has been, D-linemen have produced."

However, Omenihu is ready to go, having felt fully comfortable during OTAs and minicamp, and even envisions himself potentially taking over that Arden Key role in 2022.

"I can definitely see [being placed in that Arden Key role]. When I got traded, that's kind of what they were telling me, what they thought about me, but then Arden did his thing last year. So, being abler to watch that and seeing how he flourished in that role, [it's] something that I can definitely see myself doing."

Omenihu's frame and athleticism could make him a great fit on the interior, as well as the edge, and the Texas product could see a significant increase in his snap count in 2022, but training camp will decide which of San Francisco's many edge-rushers comes out on top, and there's a number of candidates available for the role.

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