Ravens Edge Has Offered ‘Very Little Pass-Rush Impact’ in Preseason: Report

David Ojabo

Getty A young edge-rusher for the Baltimore Ravens hasn't made much of an impact during preseason.

Getting consistent pressure from young edge-rushers will define the Baltimore Ravens’ defense during the 2023 NFL season. Unfortunately, second-year pro David Ojabo has been struggling to make an impact during preseason, according to Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic.

Zrebiec posted the tweet after the Ravens lost 29-28 to the Washington Commanders in Week 2, a game during which Ojabo and rookie Tavius Robinson offered “very little pass-rush impact.”

Ojabo’s struggles are a bigger concern than Robinson’s growing pains since the former is expected to start on the edge. The Ravens are anticipating a bookend tandem of Ojabo and Odafe Oweh to lead the pass rush.

It’s a reasonable expectation for two players who represent a significant investment of premium draft capital in recent years. The Ravens selected Oweh 31st overall in 2021, before using a second-round pick to take Ojabo a year ago, despite the player tearing his Achilles at Michigan’s pro day.

Ojabo’s injury cost him almost all of his rookie season, but he still flashed the potential to put heat on the pocket late in the year. If he can’t build on that potential, the Ravens will become heavily reliant on veteran Jadeveon Clowney, who signed a one-year deal on Friday, August 18.

Ravens Need More From Second-Year Pro

The Ravens looked as though they got a steal when Ojabo was still on the board with the 45th pick in last year’s draft. After all, he’d showcased the ability to dominate during his collegiate career, logging 11 sacks in 2021.

Moving to Baltimore was a natural fit because Ojabo would play again for defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald. The latter also called the plays for the Wolverines and helped Ojabo lead the Big 10 in pass-rush win rate inside the red zone, per Pro Football Focus College.

Numbers like these are what the Ravens are counting on from Ojabo. Those are also the type of statistics the player’s targeted when he told ESPN’s Jamison Hensley back in May, “I honestly feel better. I swear, I feel better. I feel more explosive. I’m ready to put on a show.”

A certain amount of transition can be expected from a pass-rusher who is essentially still a rookie, but the Ravens can’t afford to wait long for Ojabo to be ready to lead the charge. Fortunately, Clowney’s presence should mean they don’t have to wait.

Veteran Needs to Lead Pass Rush

Head coach John Harbaugh said Clowney’s arrival won’t impact Ojabo’s role, but it’s hard to believe things will stay that way if the latter continues to struggle. The problem is leading a pass rush hasn’t exactly been Clowney’s forte.

He’s never logged double-digit sacks in a single season since entering the pros as the first overall pick of the 2014 NFL draft. His best seasons saw him record 9.5 sacks with the Houston Texans in 2017 and register nine more quarterback takedowns with the Cleveland Browns in 2021.

There are reasons to believe Clowney can be more productive in a Ravens uniform. Reasons like the 30-year-old working again with “Ravens assistant head coach Anthony Weaver, who was with Clowney in Houston,” per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

Clowney’s versatility will also appeal to a creative play-caller like Macdonald. As Jonas Shaffer of The Baltimore Banner detailed, Clowney is destructive whenever he’s allowed to rush inside.

Combining Clowney with Ojabo and Oweh in sophisticated blitz packages is the best way for Macdonald to manufacture greater pressure. More aggressive scheming is a must after the Ravens declined to retain Jason Pierre-Paul and last season’s team sack leader Justin Houston in free agency.

Ideally though, Macdonald will want his unit to be able to rush just four and still crush the pass pocket on occasion. That won’t happen unless Ojabo and Oweh step up.

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