Jadeveon Clowney’s arrival as the latest experienced pass-rusher to suit up for the Baltimore Ravens won’t negatively impact David Ojabo’s playing time, according to head coach John Harbaugh.
Ojabo is entering his second season after losing almost all of his rookie campaign to a torn Achilles. Expectations are still high for the former Michigan standout, who flashed obvious potential in brief action last season.
Fortunately, Harbaugh explained to ESPN’s Jamison Hensley why Clowney’s presence won’t take snaps away from Ojabo: “You want to have enough guys. There’s a lot of snaps. You got about 1200 snaps in the season. You need all those guys.”
Making room for the next generation of pass-rushers is important for the Ravens, who are relying on youthful pair Ojabo and Odafe Oweh to underpin their front seven. Clowney, who signed a one-year deal with the Ravens in free agency on Friday, August 18, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, is veteran insurance against that reliance proving ill-founded.
David Ojabo Needs Room to Grow
Ojabo won’t be the disruptive force off the edge the Ravens need unless he’s given room to grow into the key role. There was barely any time to grow after Ojabo tore his Achilles at Michigan’s pro day and was active for just three games, including the playoffs, as a rookie.
Moving on from the injury is a priority for Ojabo, who earlier this offseason told Jeff Zrebiec of the Athletic, “Honestly, I’m tired of hearing about it. I’m really tired.I mean, it’s in my past. I’ll grow from it. It just made me stronger. I’m ready to move on from it. I’m 110 percent.”
Ojabo looked on track to make good on those words when Hensley reported the outside linebacker “provided plenty of pressure off edge” on the first day of minicamp back in June.
Although Ojabo appears determined to prove he’s in peak condition, the Ravens’ coaching staff simply wants him to be consistent. It’s what defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald discussed recently, “we’re preaching consistency, just like we did with Odafe last year.”
Macdonald’s reference to Oweh is telling because he’s got just as big a role to play as Ojabo. The pair represent the investment of significant draft capital by the Ravens, who used the 31st pick in the 2021 NFL draft to select Oweh, before taking Ojabo in the second round a year ago.
Their potential is obvious, but Oweh and Ojabo has so far combined for just nine sacks. It’s why the Ravens needed a proven edge as accomplished as Clowney.
Jadeveon Clowney Signing a Necessity for Ravens
Signing Clowney made sense after the Ravens opted not to bring Justin Houston back for a third tour. Houston was the team’s sack leader in 2022 and somebody who still puts consistent heat on the pocket.
Clowney hasn’t always managed to do the same during his pro career, never having managed to log double-digit sacks in a single season. Yet, Harbaugh still rates the 30-year-old as “a little underrated as a pass rusher,” per Pro Football Talk’s Josh Alper.
Some underlying metrics bear out Harbaugh’s claim. Specifically, Clowney having recorded 30 or more pressures three times during the last five seasons, in 2018 with the Houston Texans, 2019 with the Seattle Seahawks and 2021 for Baltimore’s AFC North rivals the Cleveland Browns.
The Ravens need the Clowney of those three seasons. He would be able to boost the pressure rate of a defense that used to swarm on the pocket, “but that hasn’t been the case recently,” according to numbers from ESPN Stats & Info.
Generating a more substantive pass rush is a priority for Macdonald during his second season calling the plays. Ojabo and Oweh will bear the brunt of the responsibility, but Clowney should do enough to provide the extra oomph this defense needs, the way Houston did so effectively.