NFL Africa Zone: The 'Split Decision' Edition

ByFrancis Okupa ESPN logo
Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The second week of the NFL season brought us high scoring offenses (Hi Patrick Mahomes!), more ties (Oh Green Bay...) and some impressive performances by Africa's players, particularly on defense.

Without further ado, here are the African player who stood out from the pack this week. Shockingly, Alvin Kamara isn't on the list.

Player(s) of the week

Prince Amukamara (Chicago Bears #20) and Chidobe Awuzie (Dallas Cowboys #24)

It was a fantastic gameweek for two defensive backs as the Cowboys' Chidobe Awuzie and the Bears' Prince Amukamara came through for their respective victorious teams.

Amukamara had a more than solid performance, with four tackles and two pass breakups against the Seattle Seahawks, before capping things off with a beautiful game sealing pick six off Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in the Bears' 24-17 win.

This was Amukamara's first interception since the 2015 season and his first ever interception return for a touchdown.

In Dallas on Sunday night, Awuzie lined up against Odell Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants for much of the night and more than held his own. The Nigerian-American didn't follow OBJ around the field though, as fellow CB Byron Jones held down the other side.

Awuzie helped limit OBJ to four catches for 51 yards on nine targets from Giants quarterback Eli Manning. Chido also showed his tackling ability with his eight tackles on the night, as the Cowboys won 20-13.

Notable Performances

Nelson Agholor (Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver #13)

Another week, another impressive performance by Agholor as he continues to prove that his efforts last season were for real. In the Eagles' 27-21 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (#FitzMagic), Agholor caught eight passes for 88 yards and one touchdown.

"Swagholor" has proven himself to be a reliable option for backup quarterback Nick Foles, but next week sees the return of starter Carson Wentz. Agholor will be even more important as an option for the recovered QB, who will be taking the field for his first game since his injury in week 14 last season.

Tevin Coleman (Atlanta Falcons Running back #26)

Last week we placed the "players to watch" spotlight on Coleman in anticipation of the Falcons' matchup with the Panthers.

Going up against a stout Carolina defense (albeit without suspended Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis), and knowing he would be receiving the bulk of carries due to injured Devontae Freeman being out for the next 2-3 weeks, Coleman showed up.

The Liberian-American played and slayed on the field as he ran for 107 yards on just 16 carries in the Falcons' win. Alas, there were no touchdowns for Coleman though, as QB Matt Ryan went to other options after Coleman helped bring the Falcons to the goal-line a couple of times during the game.

A few more performances like that will put a big smile on the face of Coleman's agent as he sifts through free agent offers for his client during the offseason.

The Rookie Linebackers - Uchenna Nwosu (San Diego Chargers # 42) Duke Ejiofor (Houston Texans #53)

Two young Nigerian-American linebackers picked in the 2018 NFL draft had bright starts to their season on Sunday. Nwosu, the USC product, had four tackles and one sack in the Chargers 31-20 win over the Buffalo Bills (as well as an ignominious hit on Bills punt returner Taiwan Jones).

Ejiofor, the Wake Forest product, had three tackles and one sack for his hometown Texans in their loss to the Tennessee Titans. Both players proved a handful for the opposing offensive tackles as they put pressure on the opposing quarterbacks.

As the linebackers continue to get comfortable within the league, their defensive schemes, and the realization that they can dominate at this level, expect even brighter Sundays from both Nwosu and Ejiofor.

Larry Ogunjobi (Cleveland Browns Defensive Tackle # 65)

The second year defensive tackle continues to make his presence known to opposing centers and guards. Ogunjobi is a handful in the trenches where the defensive and offensive linemen do battle.

On Sunday, Ogunjobi tallied four tackles, two sacks and two tackles for a loss in the Cleveland Browns' 21-18 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

Speaking to the media after the game, Ogunjobi's response when asked about his performance was simply, "I'm just trying to play my game, trying to do whatever I can to help my team win.

"Obviously I've got to do a little more. Just come back next week. Football is one of those games that doesn't let you soak on things too long. We've got to flush this one and be on to the next one."

If Ogunjobi and the rest of the Browns defense continue to show such promise, odds are the Browns will be celebrating their first victory since 2016 sooner rather than later.

Benson Mayowa (Arizona Cardinals Defensive End #91)

The Cardinals may have been hammered by the Rams, but it was through no fault of Benson Mayowa's. It's been a while since he made the notable performance list but the Nigerian-American provided plenty of evidence this week.

Mayowa notched seven tackles, two sacks, four tackles for a loss and two quarterback hits in the Cardinals 34-0 loss. The Cardinals' offense failed to show up but Mayowa put forth a stellar performance on the Cardinals' defense in a losing effort.

Players to Watch in Week 3

Yannick Ngakoue (Jacksonville Jaguars)

Ngakoue and the Jags will be going up against a Tennessee Titans team with a shaky offensive line situation. Expect Ngakoue, whose heritage is from Cameroon and Martinique, to feast on Sunday.

Duke Ejiofor (Houston Texans)

The Texans take on the New York Giants and the offensive tackle every pass rusher is eager to line up against, Ereck Flowers. If Jadeveon Clowney is out again for the Texans, expect Ejiofor to have a fun time against the Giants and Flowers next Sunday.

Bene Benwikere (Arizona Cardinals)

The Cardinals offense might not be able to win their game against the Chicago Bears next week, and the defense will have their hands full against new Bears coach Matt Nagy and his play calling, but Benwikere should be up for the challenge.

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