The Baltimore Ravens have an embarrassment of riches at the edges of their front seven. A cadre of dynamic pass-rushers who are starting to elevate the playmaking potential of coordinator Mike Macdonald’s defense.
Macdonald is getting sterling contributions from a productive veteran like Justin Houston. He’s also coaxing big plays from those returning from injury, including last season’s sack leader, Tyus Bowser.
What Macdonald isn’t getting is many “impactful plays” from a former first-round pick. This edge-rusher is struggling to get on the stat sheet in Year 2.
First-Rounder Being Outpaced by 12-Year Veteran
Odafe Oweh needs to do more, according to Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic: “Much was expected this year from 2021 first-round pick Odafe Oweh, and he just hasn’t been able to gain any momentum. Oweh has one sack and five quarterback hits. He’s probably played a bit better than those numbers indicate. Still, the Ravens need more and Oweh is capable of more. Where are the impactful plays?”
Oweh’s paltry numbers are the main reason Zrebiec doled out a C grade to Baltimore’s outside linebackers after nine games. Zrebiec drew a parallel between Oweh’s missing-in-action routine and the eye-popping numbers being amassed by Houston.
It’s not a comparison that flatters Oweh. While the 23-year-old has almost forgotten what it’s like to feel a quarterback’s collar, Houston has 8.5 sacks and 16 pressures to his credit, per Pro Football Reference.
Houston is doing more with less, according to PFF BAL Ravens:
For the season, 33-year-old Houston has been on the field for just 182 snaps, compared to the 436 played by Oweh. The difference isn’t lost on Oweh, who told Ravens.com’s Clifton Brown “I’m trying to get whatever he’s got.”
Oweh needs to be more concerned about Ravens edge-rushers besides Houston. Especially since one returning player is already making an impact.
Pressure on OLBs to Thrive in Crowded Rotation
Bowser tore his Achilles in January, but he’s back now and showed the Ravens what they’d been missing during Week 9’s 27-13 win over the New Orleans Saints. The sixth-year pro registered a hurry, a QB knockdown and two pressures in New Orleans.
What stood out more than the numbers was how the Ravens used Bowser in pass-rush situations. This example, highlighted by Ravens.com Editorial Director Ryan Mink, shows how Oweh and Houston took inside rushes to create an unblocked lane for Bowser on the outside:
Having Bowser in the fold with Houston and Jason Pierre-Paul gives Macdonald enough weapons to attack offenses in multiple ways. So does having this year’s second-round pick David Ojabo return to health. Ojabo tore his Achilles at Michigan’s pro day back in March, but he was a full participant in practice before facing the Saints.
This is now a crowded rotation loaded with versatility and talent. It means Oweh needs to step up his game and fast, even though not everybody agrees the 31st-overall pick in 2021 is struggling.
Among those fighting Oweh’s corner, The Draft Network’s Damien Parson believes No. 99 is using “his hands better and more to knock away offensive tackles’ hands quickly, so he can win the edge or win the inside track.”
Parson sees “a plan” in the way Oweh is rushing the passer during his second season. The next phase of that plan has to be to add some sacks to his improved technique.
Draft status won’t save Oweh from becoming the forgotten man among the Ravens’ many gifted edge-rushers if he can’t produce more splash plays.