The first year edge defender could be much more than the situational pass rusher
The Baltimore Ravens are so deep at several positions on both sides of the ball that they don’t necessarily need many of their rookies to emerge as starters in 2021. Nevertheless, they are still expecting most of them to contribute regularly, at least in rotational roles at their respective positions.
Here is the second in a seven-part series breaking down bold predictions for each member of the Ravens’ 2021 rookie class that made the final 53-man roster.
OLB Odafe Oweh
Bold prediction: Will lead the team in tackles for loss and quarterback hits.
The Ravens drafted the former Penn State Nittany Lion with the second of their two first-round picks in this year’s draft. Selected at No. 31 overall, the expectation for Oweh in year one has varied from situational pass rusher to a project prospect.
After not recording any sacks in his final collegiate season despite possessing elite athleticism, many expect Ravens Defensive Coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale to come up with creative ways to implement his off-the-chart traits. Unlike the outside masses who believe Oweh had a relatively quiet disappointment of a preseason, the Ravens have maintained their stance on not viewing him as a project.
Even though he didn’t record a single sack in the preseason, he still generated pressure albeit not on a consistent basis. He came close to notching his first sack since December 28, 2019 in the Ravens’ preseason opener against the New Orleans Saints. Oweh nearly had veteran quarterback Jameis Winston wrapped up but couldn’t bring him down before he fired the ball out at the last minute.
Part of Oweh’s lack of sack production in college was a byproduct of his primary responsibilities on any given play. In his final college season, his coaches directed him to defend him the run first and foremost so he wasn’t often firing upfield in hot pursuit of the opposing quarterback. Those habits can be tough to break, new muscle memory might take a little longer to set in but make no mistake, Oweh possesses all the tools to develop into an elite pass rusher in due time.
I was among the contingent that believed that Oweh’s fastest route to playing time and the role he could be the most impactful as a rookie would be as a situational pass rusher. However, after listening to what his coaches have been saying all summer, reading reports from practice, and watching during the preseason, I believe he’ll see just as many snaps on early downs as he does on obvious passing downs.
Even though the Ravens already have some stout edge setters against the run in Tyus Bowser, Pernell McPhee, and Jaylon Ferguson, I predict Oweh will make his presence felt more as a run defender than a pass rusher in year one. I foresee him chasing down plays from the backside to bring ball carriers down for losses or minimal gains.
While I believe he’ll be best utilized as a run game neutralizer, I still predict that he’ll make his presence felt as a pass rusher. I expect him to be especially impactful rushing opposing passers off the edge down the stretch once he’s develops a better feel for beating offensive tackles at the pro level.
He’ll likely be on the field for the Ravens’ multiple outside linebacker sets in sub-packages when McPhee kicks inside to rush from the interior. Oweh’s ability to drop into coverage is a bit unrefined but can definitely be an asset when disguising coverages and dialing up pressure from the opposite side of the defensive alignment.
He will also likely get his fair share of snaps on special teams where he can show off his speed and physicality as a gunner or even notch a block on field goals and extra-point attempts. He received the recognition for a play in the preseason opener against the Saints where he played the role of a gunner and came barreling down towards the ball carrier.
The Ravens have 6-5, 250 pound edge rusher Odafe Oweh playing gunner on special teams.
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) August 16, 2021
Final stat prediction: 32 combined tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 20 quarterback hits, two blocked kicks and an two interceptions.