FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The size and skill of Arnold Ebiketie is clear to all in the tape of his college game. The rusher is 6-foot-1, 253 pounds, with big hands and a solid wingspan. Possesses the technical acumen to weave through or through blocks, effectively using leverage to reach the backfield.
Those traits helped his breakout 2021 campaign after transferring to Penn State, where he had 62 tackles, including 18 for loss, 9.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. He had 52 total pressures, per PFF, and a 22.8 percent pass rush percentage, which was ninth best in the country.
Such numbers do not only come from physical characteristics and technique.
Ebiketie works pretty hard from another angle.
“Knowledge is power,” Ebiketie said last week. “The more knowledge I manage to acquire, the more effective I will be on the field.”
This was useful for a player with relatively little experience playing football. He only started in his second year of high school – football was the Cameroonian’s first sporting passion – but he worked tirelessly, mentally and physically, to improve his skill.
It helped him in college and Ebiketie believes it will help him transition to the pros.
“I think it comes down to how I approach the pass run, how I study my opponent and how I transfer that knowledge onto the field,” Ebiketie said. “I’m agile enough, versatile enough to do some different things. As long as I keep that mindset and study my opponent well, I think I should be fine going forward.”
The Falcons are hoping he transitions well into the pros and can help the No. 38 overall pick develop into a dominant tight end over time. It’s a process that Ebiketie is excited to start, with the help of the Falcons’ coaches and a method of learning and technical improvement that has worked well so far.
It’s not just about studying opposing players and attacking schemes. Sometimes it’s self-reconnaissance. Other times it’s a review of tapes from the best in their field.
“I study Von Miller, TJ Watt, Nick Bosa, some of the guys that have been consistent over the years,” Ebiketie said. “I study the things they do and try to apply it to my own game. I’m really interested in the game. I’m just trying to get better.”
There will be some adjustments to the professional game and the scheme it joins. Ebiketie says he’ll operate from a two-point stance a lot more than he did in college, and he needs to learn how to take the right initial steps chasing the passer and how to defend the run well as a (mostly) stand-up sharp edge player.
Ebiketie is confident that it will get to a place where it can be consistently influential. He sees consistency as the most important piece of the puzzle, separating the top players from those who are merely talented.
Consistency and willingness to learn. Dean Pees likes that in his players. That’s what Ebiketie intends to give the defensive coordinator during the offseason program and training camp, never assuming his lofty draft status guarantees him anything.
“I am confident in my potential and I know I will put in the effort,” Ebiketie said. “I don’t expect any help. One of my coaches said you have to earn your living so I’m going to come here every day and try to earn my place.”
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