John Harbaugh is aware his Baltimore Ravens defense could lose one of its key edge-rushers for the rest of the 2023 NFL season. David Ojabo is dealing with ankle and knee injuries, and Harbaugh acknowledged “there’s some decisions that have to be made, that he has to make.”
By placing Ojabo’s campaign in jeopardy, Harbaugh has left the door ajar for the former Michigan standout to miss yet more time. The Ravens’ second-round pick in the 2022 NFL draft missed all but game of his rookie season after tearing his Achilles during the college’s pro day.
Ojabo returned in time for Week 18 and flashed some potential, but the 23-year-old was placed on injured reserve after three games this year. Now an expected bounce-back season already looks fatally derailed.
If Ojabo does stay on the shelf, the Ravens will become more reliant on free-agent acquisitions Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy to apply pressure. Fortunately, the two veterans have already caught the eye.
Injury Luck Gets Worse for Potential Star
It’s a cruel twist of fate if Ojabo loses the best part of another season to injury. His potential for stardom is obvious, especially when he recorded strip-sacks in back-to-back games against the Cincinnati Bengals and Houston Texans to bookend this campaign and the last.
The Ravens have been searching for a pass-rusher capable of making these kinds of splash plays on a consistent basis. Ojabo is one of the few who’ve auditioned to showcase the physical traits and playmaking flair needed for the key role.
Unfortunately, injuries are limiting his chances to grow in the pros, with the player seeing the field for a mere four snaps against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 3. Ojabo’s absence has compounded the Ravens already being without fellow edge-rusher Odafe Oweh, who has missed two games dealing with his own ankle problem.
Oweh had been struggling to make the grade as a pass-rusher, registering just four pressures and failing to notch a sack this season. Those struggles are another reason why the Ravens have needed Clowney and Van Noy to step up.
Veterans Answering Call for Help
The Ravens only acquired two-time Super Bowl winner Van Noy on Tuesday, September 26, but he hasn’t wasted time making a positive impression. Harbaugh was left amazed by Van Noy making it onto the field so quickly against the Browns, per Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic.
Van Noy has been a consistent force rushing off the edge, recording at least five sacks in each of the last four seasons. The 32-year-old will be a good running mate for Clowney, who has been playing solid football since signing with the Ravens this offseason.
Clowney already has 1.5 sacks and six pressures to his credit, according to Pro Football Reference. He’s still a disruptive presence, but the Ravens can’t risk the former first-overall pick becoming a magnet for double teams while no other pass-rusher demands attention from offenses.
Van Noy will help, but it will also be a boost to get Tyus Bowser back healthy. Harbaugh noted how Bowser is getting close to practicing following a lengthy injury layoff, per Hensley.
Bowser led the Ravens with seven sacks in 2021 and is the kind of versatile, roving edge defender the Ravens build their pressure schemes around. Having Bowser back up to full speed, along with an acclimated Van Noy supporting a rejuvenated Clowney, will ensure the Ravens don’t lose their ability to put heat on passers if Ojabo can’t return this season.