Going from defensive end to tackle isn’t the most jarring transition Ebenezer Ekuban has made in his football career. This is, after all, the man who shifted from tight end to defensive end at the University of North Carolina a decade ago after lingering behind future Chargers and Cardinals tight end Freddie Jones on the depth chart. (To top it off, future Falcons Pro Bowler Alge Crumpler arrived in Chapel Hill just as Ekuban made the switch.)
Nevertheless, having to add tackle duties to his repertoire left Ekuban scrambling to adjust in the season’s final month.
“I ain’t going to lie to you, it’s definitely taking some time getting adjusted to the physical nature of being pounded every play,” Ekuban said in December, “but, I think my greatest asset is my speed, and that helps me out in there.”
The result was a revival of fortunes for the eight-year veteran. He played more in Weeks 15-17 than he did at any other point during the season and logged more tackles in those three weeks than anyone else on the defensive line, with 15 solo stops and four assists, including nine tackles in the Dec. 24 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
But what was perhaps most promising of all was how Ekuban increased his pass-rush output in the dual tackle/end role, logging 2.5 sacks in the last three games and forcing a Matt Leinart fumble early in the Dec. 17 win at Arizona.
Not bad for someone who was trying to discern how to rush the passer from tackle after playing end almost exclusively for nine years.
“At end, you can narrow your base and put your tail up, and you can go get that quarterback, but inside, man, you have to make sure you have a good, wide base and know that you’re going to face two guys most of the time,” Ekuban said.
“Your mentality is just different. Instead of just saying, ‘Hey, let’s get to the quarterback,’ I’m thinking more of using my power rushes to try to let things open up.”
Just like new possibilities opened up for Ekuban in the last three games.
FINAL ANALYSIS: Saw more snaps than any other Broncos defensive end in 2006 … Finished second among defensive linemen behind Michael Myers with 78 total tackles (61 solo, 17 assists) … Also finished second on the team in sacks with seven, which was one off his career high in 2004 with Cleveland … Has more sacks (11) in the last two seasons than anyone else on the Broncos roster.
NEXT: Placekicker Jason Elam.