Justin Houston Having ‘Yoda’-Like Impact on Ravens’ OLBs

Ravens Odafe Oweh

Getty Ravens rookie linebacker Odafe Oweh wraps up Saints quarterback Jameis Winston for a sack in an August 14 preseason matchup.

The Baltimore Ravens signed veteran outside linebacker Justin Houston in the hopes that he would bolster the team’s pass rush after they lost their top two edge rushers this offseason.

But his contributions off the field may rival his on-field production, as he has taken to mentoring the Ravens’ stable of young OLBs during training camp.

2021 first-round draft pick Odafe Oweh compared Houston to Jedi Master Yoda from the Star Wars film franchise last week, saying “He just knows everything, and I try to ask him questions about different sets, how to approach that, how to attack that, and he’ll have the answer right away.”

Tyus Bowser, who re-signed with the Ravens for four years and $22 million in March, praised Houston’s leadership of the outside linebacker group, telling media yesterday, “It’s been great from day one. Having a guy like him around has been fantastic. I’m very honored and privileged to be around a guy like him.”

Ravens OLBs Putting in Extra Work at Practice

Houston has gone above and beyond to mentor his younger teammates, passing on the wisdom he has accrued in his eight NFL seasons. His deep repertoire of pass rush moves will be especially valuable for the development of Oweh, who came out of college with freakish athleticism but lacked refined technique.

Houston showcased the knowledge and experience that he brings to the Ravens during Tuesday’s practice, working with Oweh and Jaylon Ferguson on hand placement and technique.

Houston emphasized the importance of “muscle memory,” encouraging Oweh and Ferguson to try the drill with their eyes closed “so it becomes more natural.”

Oweh has quickly taken to Houston’s mentorship, watching him closely during practices and drills.

“See how he’s closing his eyes? Channeling the inner Force. He’s about to teach me what he’s doing next,” he said on Tuesday.

Oweh has seized every opportunity to soak up knowledge from Houston, who enters this season with 97.5 sacks.

The former Nittany Lion said last week, “I’m new to the game, so I’m trying to pick up something different every single time. I try to work with him after practice – hands, just learning. With film too, how to take care of your body – just that vet mentality, being a pro and everything. So, he’s really helped me with everything.”

On Monday, Oweh and fellow rookie Daelin Hayes got in some extra reps with Houston after practice. The following day, Oweh and Bowser spent so much time working with Houston after practice ended that they were actually “booted off the field,” per The Baltimore Sun’s Jonas Shaffer.

OLBs Contributing to Standout Defensive Play

The Ravens’ defense has been the highlight of the team’s preseason so far, with Baltimore’s secondary showcasing their quality and depth against the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints.

But the Ravens outside linebackers have also impressed, with Ferguson and Hayes standing out of the group.

Both players set the edge well against the run and consistently pressured opposing quarterbacks in the Ravens’ first two preseason games.

CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso has been disappointed in Oweh’s preseason play, giving the rookie a C-minus for his performances against the Saints and Panthers.

“Oweh has two pressures on 24 pass-rush snaps (8.3%). One was on a play in which he wasn’t blocked. The other came when Jameis Winston held the ball for almost five seconds,” wrote Trapasso.

There is no doubt that Oweh has the physical tools requisite to be a top-flight pass rusher in the NFL, but he’ll need to develop a deeper arsenal of pass rush moves to compete against the league’s top tackles.

With All-Pro tackle Ronnie Stanley completing his first practice yesterday, Oweh will have yet another veteran to learn from.

“I’ve been trying to go up against Ronnie for the longest,” said Oweh on August 16.

If the Penn State product can continue to take instruction from Houston and refine his technique, he could emerge as a difference-maker for the Ravens’ defense.

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