Onwuasor arrived in Las Vegas in early September along with veteran ex-Seattle Seahawk K.J. Wright to support the Raiders’ unproven linebacker corps. He was activated for two games already this season, playing almost exclusively special teams with only one snap on defense. But his experience in Baltimore as a core special teamer makes him a reliable option for the Raiders, who played Onwuasor for more than 55% of their special teams snaps in both games.
Onwuasor is likely a one-for-one replacement for Raiders rookie safety Tyree Gillespie, who has played at least 45% of the Raiders’ special teams snaps in every game this season. Gillespie was moved to injured reserve today, holding him out for at least three days.
‘Peanut’ has a solid pedigree as a special teams player, with two seasons of 80.0 or better grades from Pro Football Focus in his career. But he’s struggled this year, failing to even reach a 50.0 special teams grade in his two games.
Up and Down Career in Baltimore
Onwuasor arrived in Baltimore as an undrafted free agent in 2016 and quickly carved out a role for himself on special teams, playing 239 snaps–75% of the team’s total special teams snaps–in his rookie season.
Midway through his second season, Onwuasor was starting at inside linebacker for the Ravens and finished the season with a career-high 90 total tackles. His 74.5 run defense grade from PFF was also the highest of his career, earning him a starting job for the 2018 season.
In 2018, he expanded his game, posting the highest coverage and pass rush grades of his career. According to PFF, Onwuasor finished with six regular-season sacks, second most of all linebackers. He also forced two fumbles, a career-high, and scored two touchdowns on the year, the only scores of his career.
But a poor showing in 2019 led Onwuasor to lose his starting job, finishing the year with only a 48.3 overall grade from PFF. He signed with the Jets in 2020, but only played in one game due to injury.
Ravens ILBs Thriving
Onwuasor was rumored for a potential reunion in Baltimore after L.J. Fort sustained a season-ending ACL tear in the preseason, but the Ravens ultimately re-signed veteran Josh Bynes for his third stint in Baltimore.
The Ravens began the season with second-years Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison as their starting inside linebackers, but poor play from both quickly forced Bynes into action.
Not only has Bynes been extremely good for the Ravens, earning the third-highest defensive grade from PFF of all linebackers, but the veteran’s arrival has helped the young Queen immensely.
Harbaugh praised Queen’s recent play during a press conference today, saying, “He’s really stepped it up. He’s playing really well.”
In four games playing alongside Bynes, Queen has earned his three highest single-game PFF grades, including a dominant 90.5 outing against the Los Angeles Chargers. He also hasn’t missed a tackle in that span after missing at least one tackle in each of the Ravens’ first five games.
As a result, inside linebacker play has gone from a weakness to a strength in Baltimore, helping stabilize a defense that is still prone to giving up big plays.