Ravens Should Give USFL Stud a Chance to Fix Problem Position

Chris Odom

Getty The Ravens can fix a problem position with this USFL star.

Trouble may be brewing in the pass-rush department for the Baltimore Ravens. There are no shortage of options, but not many members of the rotation are healthy.

Talent also isn’t in short supply, and there’s reason to be excited about what young players like Odafe Oweh and David Ojabo can produce once they’re 100 percent. That’s the best-case scenario.

The worst case involves the Ravens rolling the dice on their primary edge-rushers being ready, only to have to play a waiting game once the season begins. There is an alternative, though, an under-the-radar option that would involve the Ravens giving a chance to one of the stars of this season’s USFL.

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He’s raw and has a lot to do to prove he can stick in the NFL, but this highly disruptive playmaker also possesses the core skills the Ravens need on the edges of their defense.


USFL Sack Leader Worth a Gamble for Ravens

It can’t do any harm for the Ravens to bring Houston Gamblers’ defensive end Chris Odom into camp this summer. He’s earned the right for another chance at this level after leading the USFL with 12.5 sacks and six forced fumbles.

Odom has also earned plaudits for his work on special teams. His four blocked field goals this season only increase the chances of NFL teams showing interest, according to Football Gameplan owner Emroy Hunt, who made the case for Odom on the Ross Tucker Podcast:

Making an impact in football’s third phase could represent Odom’s best chance to return to the big time, but the Ravens shouldn’t overlook his ability to generate pressure. At 6’4″ and 262 pounds, he has the right physical profile to play as an edge-rusher in the Ravens’ version of the 3-4 defense.

Odom also has the flexibility to bend, dip and rip his way past offensive tackles. He showed those traits on this sack against the Tampa Bay Bandits, with Odom rushing from a standup position like a classic outside linebacker in a 3-4:

The Ravens need edge-rushers with this level of explosiveness and athleticism if they’re going to log more than last season’s modest tally of 34 sacks. That’s what new defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald is counting on players like Oweh and second-round pick Ojabo to deliver.

They both tip the scales at similar dimensions to Odom, and so does the team’s sack leader last season, 6’3″, 242-pounder Tyus Bowser. The problem is no member of this key trio may be fully healthy when the Ravens start their season on the road against the New York Jets on September 11.


Concerns Lingering on the Edges

Ojabo was a second-round pick with first-round talent who fell only because he tore his ACL at Michigan’s pro day back in March. The Ravens were right to still roll the dice, but it doesn’t help Bowser is also recovering from January surgery to repair a torn Achilles.

In his assessment of when injured players could return, The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec said Bowser could take “between nine and 12 months” to fully recover, although he noted “there are enough examples of players returning in less than nine months to suggest Bowser has a realistic shot to be on the field Sept. 11.”

Zrebiec also anticipated Ojabo could be on the shelf “until late October at the earliest.” It means there’ll be a lot of pressure on Oweh to produce during his second season.

He underwent shoulder surgery this offseason, but Oweh recently posted footage of his return to training:

There are big expectations for Oweh, who is being tipped to reach his first Pro Bowl by Around the NFL’s Nick Shook. The burden on Oweh will be lighter if Odom is on hand to help out in a situational role.

It’s a significant jump from the USFL to the NFL, but pass-rushers usually boast transferrable skills. There have been examples of edge-rushers arriving from other leagues and achieving stardom at this level, notably Cameron Wake, who registered 100.5 sacks across 11 seasons after swapping the Canadian Football League for the Miami Dolphins in 2009.

Odom may not make the same impact, but he already has NFL experience from stints with the Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers and Washington. He wouldn’t fix the Ravens’ pass rush by himself, but Odom would be another useful option in an intriguing rotation that has a lot of upside, despite the lingering injury concerns.

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