Francis Okupa, KweséESPN 37d

NFL Africa Zone week 6: The Apple a Day Edition

The Africans in the NFL had a mixed go of it in week six, as some failed to shine while others took advantage of opportunities they were given to impress.

The gameweek saw some excellent rushing performances (minus touchdowns) by the African running backs, as well as a few defensive ends making an impact.

Player of the week - Eli Apple (New York Giants #24) Cornerback

In what was possibly his best game so far for the Giants, after a rough start to the season for him and his team, Apple had a great game against the Broncos on Sunday Night. Targeted by Broncos quarterbacks 10 times in the passing game, Apple allowed just five receptions for a total of 38 yards. The Ghanaian-American cornerback also was involved in five tackles, had three passes defensed (batted down, deflected, broken up) and had a fumble recovery.

Notable Performances

Jay Ajayi (Miami Dolphins #23) Running back

The Dolphins' running game was down (along with the New York Giants' running game) at the bottom of the league going into Sunday's game against the Atlanta Falcons. Then Ajayi showed up. Running behind his offensive line, which finally provided some running lanes, Ajayi ended up with 130 rushing yards on 26 carries as he helped propel the Dolphins to a 20-17 win over the Falcons. The most impressive thing about Ajayi's performance is the fact that 96 of his 130 yards came after receiving initial contact from the opposing defense. Ajayi took matters into his own hands to make positive yards happen, with or without the help of his offensive line.

Orleans Darkwa (New York Giants #26) Running back

After getting on our list last week, Darkwa is back again after an even more impressive rushing performance on Sunday. Going up against the Denver Broncos and their stout run defense, Darkwa carried the rock 21 times for 117 yards to help the Giants get their first victory of the season. With the Giants' coaching staff finally getting creative with their offensive line (adjustments and player position switches were made prior to the game) Darkwa was able to make positive plays from the running lanes opened up for him.

Alvin Kamara (New Orleans Saints #41) Running back

Up there with Kareem Hunt of the Kansas City Chiefs and Leonard Fournette of the Jacksonville Jaguars as the most exciting rookie running back this season, Kamara played his part once again as the Saints held on for an insanely exciting victory over the Detroit Lions. Receiving 10 carries on Sunday, Kamara rushed for 75 yards and a 7.5 yard per carry average to qualify as the highlight of the week.

Alex Okafor (New Orleans Saints #57) Defensive End

One of our players to watch heading into week 6, Nigerian-American Okafor enjoyed going up against the Detroit Lions offensive line on Sunday. Two tackles, one sack and one forced fumble helped the Saints defense put up points and keep the Lions on edge throughout the game.

Ufomba Kamalu (Houston Texans #94) Outside linebacker

With no J.J. Watt or Whitney Mercilus available for the Texans' pass rush, next man up was University of Miami grad and former resident of Aba, Nigeria Ufomba Kamalu. Kamalu played in four games last season and got his first NFL sack. On Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, Kamalu picked up his second career NFL sack as he played a role in making the Texans pass rush relevant without the injured defensive stars.

KweseESPN Quick Hits with... Ufomba Kamalu

Q. Heading into the season, what was the feedback you received from coaches?

A. They've said I've come a long way since last year. I'm quicker, a lot more powerful, I'm playing better so I've come a long way (after changing positions).

Q. What difficulties did you face in changing positions?

A. The biggest one is probably coverage, because playing D-line all you're doing is going forward, you're never really dropping but at outside linebacker you drop a couple of times and you need to know where [certain positions] are. Coverage skills aren't where I want them to be but they get better every day.

Q. Who were your favourite defensive ends to watch when you started watching the NFL and who do you enjoy watching now?

A. Probably Osi Umenyiora with the Giants back when he was playing. Nowadays Justin Houston (Kansas City), Calais Campbell when he was with Arizona and Khalil Mack how he plays.

Q. You haven't been back to Nigeria since you moved to the United States for high school, any places in particular you'd like to visit when you finally get to return?

A. My main thing is just going back to Nigeria and going from there. I have uncles and aunties in Lagos, Aba, really spread out.

Post game quotes - Dolphins' RB Jay Ajayi

On what the win means:

"It's a great win for us. With how we have been playing, it was great for us just to finish a game no matter what the obstacles are. We were down early. This week we really put it on ourselves to stay together and not get frustrated no matter what we do as an offense or whether we put points on the board. We didn't want our emotions to get us out of the game. I think this week offensively we were really able to lock in as well and keep our emotions in check. That was big for us, and we were able to create big plays down the stretch. The defense did the rest."

On the number of carries despite being down early:

"I always want to be able to be a factor for this team and help us win. Being that workhorse for us, I pride myself on that. It was a clutch time getting crucial first downs in scoring range, and I was glad I was able to help. The offensive line and receivers on the outside did their jobs, and I just run hard."

On handling adversity during the week:

"That has been our M.O. I think. Whatever it is, however it is, we just find a way to get it done. We have a lot of great personalities on this team that has helped build that culture of challenging and fighting adversity head-on. It was a great game to showcase that, and we did. That's a great team we just played in the Falcons, so credit to them. But it was exciting for us to rally and really show that we can come together in all phases and close out the game with a win."

- Via Miami Dolphins media

Players to watch in Week 7

Yannick Ngakoue (Jacksonville Jaguars #91) Defensive End

The Jaguars second-year defensive end has cooled down over the past couple of weeks and coming off a loss to the Los Angeles Rams, Ngakoue will be aiming to play his part for the defense on Sunday. The Jaguars will be heading to Indianapolis to take on the Colts in a divisional matchup. Ngakoue will try to add to his four sacks and three forced fumbles on the season.

Chidobe Awuzie (Dallas Cowboys #33) Cornerback

Bay Area native Awuzie will be returning to the area he grew up in when the Cowboys head to Northern California to play the San Francisco 49ers. With Dallas coming off a loss to the Green Bay Packers prior to the bye week in week 6, "America's Team" will seek to get rid of the stench of the loss to the Packers by making sure the winless 49ers stay that way. The 49ers will be starting rookie C.J. Beathard at quarterback and depending on the status of his hamstring, Awuzie will be provided more responsibility in the Cowboys secondary.

Cedric Ogbuehi (Cincinnati Bengals #70) Offensive line

The Bengals left tackle had a nice performance in the their victory over the Browns before the bye week. The first game back for the Bengals will be against the Steelers in Pittsburgh. Tasked with facing Steelers outside linebackers Bud Dupree, rookie T.J. Watt, and James Harrison (if the Steelers don't rest him on Sunday), Ogbuehi will be in for a tough test as he will need to have a near immaculate game to keep quarterback Andy Dalton upright and in so doing give the Bengals a chance to come out with a win.

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