Ravens OLB Gets Defensive Rookie of the Year Buzz After Breakout Game

Ravens Odafe Oweh

Getty Baltimore Ravens rookie outside linebacker Odafe Oweh celebrates his forced and recovered fumble with teammate and mentor Justin Houston.

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson described the Kansas City Chiefs as the team’s “kryptonite” after last season’s 34-20 loss to the then-reigning Super Bowl champions.

But ironically, the Chiefs may have given the Ravens their own super-weapon against Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City’s near-unstoppable offense: rookie outside linebacker Odafe Oweh.

The Ravens drafted Oweh with the 31st pick in the 2021 NFL draft, which they acquired from the Chiefs as part of the Orlando Brown Jr. trade in April.

Kansas City didn’t foresee that their pick would be used to take a player who would force two clutch turnovers to beat the Chiefs, but that’s just what Oweh did on Sunday night.

First, the rookie used his speed to surprise Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes on a delayed blitz, forcing a rare errant throw from the 2018 MVP that was corralled by cornerback Tavon Young for an interception that set up a Ravens touchdown.

Oweh followed that up with the biggest play of his young career, forcing a huge fumble that killed the Chiefs’ potential game-winning drive.

The former Nittany Lion burst through the Chiefs’ offensive line and stripped running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, pouncing on the fumble to give the Ravens’ possession.

“That was the type of play we envisioned him making when we drafted him,” said Harbaugh of Oweh’s forced fumble, which set up the Ravens’ game-sealing drive.

Ironically, Oweh slid past Brown, who the Ravens gave up to acquire Oweh, to make the pivotal play, with Chiefs’ guard Joe Thuney unable to stop the speedy OLB.


Oweh Dazzles With Early-Season Play

Drafted as a physical specimen, Oweh has showcased his rapidly-developing technique and football I.Q. in the Ravens’ first two regular season games.

Last week against the Las Vegas Raiders, he led all rookies with four quarterback pressures, converting one of them into a sack, per Pro Football Focus.

Oweh earned an 86.3 grade from PFF for his efforts on Sunday night, the highest of any Ravens defender, bringing him to an 80.4 grade on the year, the 14th-best mark of all edge defenders.

His forced fumble was also named “Biggest Game-Changing Moment” by PFF, as it boosted the Ravens’ win probability by 64.3%. Oweh has been extremely good against the run, earning an 89.9 run defense grade from PFF, third among edge defenders.

While his former Penn State teammate Micah Parsons is the current favorite to win Defensive Rookie of the Year, Oweh has wedged his way into the conversation after his breakout performance against the Chiefs.


Ravens Blitz Less, Limit Hill

But Oweh wasn’t the only reason the Ravens beat the Chiefs on Sunday night.

Defensive coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale heeded calls to curb his usual tendency to blitz heavily, instead working to limit Mahomes’ primary offensive weapons, wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce.

Kelce still gashed the Ravens for 108 yards on seven catches, including a 46-yard romp that seemingly no Baltimore defender could stop.

But Hill, often cited as the most explosive receiver in the league, was held to three catches on four targets for just 14 yards.

Ravens cornerback Anthony Averett stepped up in the absence of the injured Marcus Peters, showcasing his impressive speed to keep up with Hill on several plays, including this pass breakup on a key third down in the fourth quarter.

Averett’s deflection forced the Chiefs to punt, allowing the Ravens’ offense to drive down the field for the eventual game-winning score.

 


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