Ravens Coach Shares Excitement for Young Pass Rushing Tandem

Ravens OLB Odafe Oweh

Getty The team's new outside linebackers coach believes the two first round talents are ready to make an impact and take their games to the next level in 2023.

The Baltimore Ravens put an emphasis on not just upgrading their roster this offseason but the coaching staff as well by bringing in new innovative hires as well as promoting from within.

One of the new faces on staff this year that is familiar to many in the organization is outside linebackers coach, Chuck Smith. While this is his first in a full-time coaching position on a professional staff and not just as a consultant, he is a renowned pass rush guru who has worked with many of the league’s best interior and edge rushers over the past two decades.

He spoke with media for the first time since being hired on Tuesday, June 6, 2023, and gave some great insight into what makes a successful pass rusher at the NFL level after having been one himself during a nine-year career from 1992 to 2000 where he compiled 58.5 sacks, according to Pro Football Reference.

Smith also shared his high level of excitement for the growth of Ravens’ young outside linebackers Odafe Oweh and David Ojabo and the potential impact that he knows they’re capable of having in 2023 and beyond.

Oweh was a first-round pick in 2021 that wasn’t able to build off a strong rookie campaign and finished with just three sacks in 2022 per PFR. Objabo would’ve been a first-round pick last year had he not suffered a torn Achilles that cost him all but three games of his rookie season but he still managed to record a strip-sack in his limited action per PFR.

“He’s everything I thought he was when he was at Michigan,” Smith said about Ojabo. “He’s quick. He’s confident. He’s twitchy. He has a high pass-rush IQ, and he has mastered a lot of different moves, and they’re learning how to do it. We’re constantly talking every second, every minute, on text, on threads. He’s got that dawg mindset. Dude is ready and he’s going to have an impact.”

One of his main focuses for Oweh this year is finding his signature or go-to pass rush move that will be his forte throughout his career. He mentioned how Hall of Famer pass rushers like Reggie White and Lawrence Taylor used power moves and more modern legends like Von Miller, Dwight Freeney, and Maxx Crosby frequently used or still use the spin move.

“When you see Odafe, you’re going to know his signature pass-rush move,” Smith said. “We’re teaching them to do high-performance moves, but most importantly, how to fix them when flaws come about. That’s where I come in.”

In 2022, Oweh put some nice bull rushes on tape, especially toward the end of the year when he began rushing more from the inside. Smith says that size and weight don’t always dictate or allow pass rushers to execute bull rushes at a consistently high level but rather speed off the ball and given Oweh’s elite and explosive 4.3 speed and athleticism, it could ultimately become his signature move.

“It has to do with speed off the ball and how you generate power in the angles you take towards the offensive lineman,” Smith said. “Last year, he had some good bull rushes, but there are times when you’re going against big guys, it’s about movement.”

He believes that Oweh and Ojabo feed off each other and the best quality they share is their willingness and eagerness to help and push each other which dates back to their time as high school teammates at Blair Academy in New Jersey.

“When they’re lined up out there, they’re communicating,” Smith said. “Ojabo might need this, or he might ask ‘Dafe’ this. They come off because they talk the same language – from the standpoint of football language – so they’re talking the same language and they’re helping each other.

The dynamic duo is helping set an example for young players like fourth-round rookie Tavius Robinson and 2022 undrafted free agent Jeremiah Moon who Smith named specifically to follow as they strive to ultimately be the “best team [and] defense” they can be as a group.

“The big prize is try to win a Super Bowl and pass rush, for us to get there, that’s going to have to be a part of it,” Smith said.

Smith’s Professional Coaching Journey Comes Full Circle

It seems like fate that his first full-time job as a positional coach is coming in the same with the same team where it all began. Smith spent time with the Ravens as a training camp consultant through the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship which is where he first met head coach John Harbaugh in 2008 which also happened to be his first year at the helm of the team.

That preexisting relationship between not only him and Harbaugh but the front office as well as ownership has made the transition of going from a private contractor to being part of a large staff seemingly seamless.

“The transition has been easy because I know a lot of people here,” Smith said. “I did the Bill Walsh minority coaching program, got my start here coach Harbaugh’s first year. I was a lot younger. He was a lot younger. Everybody here, even guys on the staff – there are guys here who I trained. [General Manager] Eric [DeCosta], [Owner] Mr. [Steve] Bisciotti, I’ve known a lot of these people for a long, long, long time. If there was a perfect place for me to come and really kick off my first year again, it was the Baltimore Ravens.”

Ever since the early days of his playing career in the 90s, Smith always knew that he wanted to train pass rushers professionally one day because, at the time, there weren’t any private contractors that specialized in it.

“There was a void there, and I just had a love of pass rush from back in 1978 I think when Jack Youngblood – or 1979 – when he broke his leg, watching him and then watching LT [Lawrence Taylor],” he said. “There was no skill trainers, so right then, 2001, I went on injured reserve. I went back to Atlanta and I started training pass rushers.”

Ravens Leading WR in 2022 Signs With NFC Team

The player that led the Ravens in receiving yards from the wide receiver position has found a new home after NFL Insider Ian Rapoport reported that veteran Demarcus Robinson agreed to terms with the Los Angeles Rams on June 8, 2023.

When the Ravens added the veteran wideout toward the end of last year’s training camp, it was viewed as a signing that would provide quality depth and experience to a young position group featuring no players older than 25 at the time he was signed.

However, he not only established himself as a reliable possession receiver and chain mover by midseason but he was the last one left standing after the top of the depth chart was ravaged by season-ending foot injuries to 2021 first-rounder Rashod Bateman and two-time Pro Bowler Devin Duvernay.

Robinson finished the year second on the team behind three-time Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews in targets (75), receptions (48), and receiving yards (458) per Pro Football Reference.

His best game came against the Carolina Panthers in Week 11 when he recorded a season-high nine receptions and 128 receiving yards and his best moment as a Raven was when he ran past widely despised cornerback Eli Apple for a 41-yard touchdown in the team’s playoff bout with the Cincinnati Bengals in the Wildcard round.

Even though Robinson was a fan favorite for many, the writing was on the wall that he likely wouldn’t get brought back after the Ravens revamped their wide receiver depth chart this offseason. They signed former first-rounders Odell Beckham Jr. and Nelson Agholor in free agency and followed it up by drafting Zay Flowers in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft.

The Rams mark the fourth team that Robinson will have signed with and the third in the last two years.  He originally entered the league as a fourth-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2016 NFL Draft out of the University of Florida.

Through his first seven seasons in the league, Robinson has complied 193 receptions on 302 targets for 2,137 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns in 114 games with 47 starts per PFR.

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