Baltimore Ravens rookie defensive end Odafe Oweh, the 31st overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft, has yet to step on the field for his first professional game. In fact, he hasn’t even signed his rookie contract yet.
But from what they’ve seen of him so far at rookie minicamp, his new coaching staff are mighty impressed.
“There are things he does right now in practice that’s better than what our veterans can do. And that’s what exciting about him,” said defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale, via Jonas Shaffer of the Baltimore Sun.
Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta took a bit of a gamble when he chose the Penn State pass rusher in the first round. Oweh is as raw as any first-round pick in the past decade.
The Ravens have high hopes for Odafe Oweh in the future
Dating back to his high school days, he has been playing football for only five years. In his 20 total games with the Penn State Nittany Lions, Oweh logged just seven sacks — none of which came last season.
Not all positive contributions in football can be measured on a stat sheet, however. It was Oweh’s sheer athleticism that endeared him to the Ravens’ coaching staff, including head coach John Harbaugh.
“You look at his athletic ability, and just for that very fact, we feel like he’s a great fit in our defense,” said Harbaugh, per the Baltimore Sun.
"“He’s an aggressive player. He runs to the ball very fast. He’s in the backfield constantly. He’s knocking people back into the backfield. He’s beating tackles into the backfield. He runs things down from behind. I think he’s a perfect fit for our defense.”"
At Penn State’s pro day in March, the 6-foot-5, 257-pound Oweh put up stellar numbers. He ran the 40-yard-dash in 4.39 seconds — exactly the same time that his new teammate, wide receiver Rashod Bateman, scored at his own pro day.
He also ranked in or above the 90th percentile among players at his position in the vertical leap, three-cone drill, and 20-yard shuttle.
Odafe Oweh will not be the only fresh face competing for a starting role in the Ravens’ front-seven. The team also drafted Notre Dame edge rusher Daelin Hayes in the fifth round. Both rookies will have big shoes to fill in 2021.
Earlier this offseason, the core of the Ravens’ pass-rush — Yannick Ngakoue, Matthew Judon, and Jihad Ward — left for other teams in free agency. In 2021, those three players combined for 12 sacks, six of which came from Judon.
In an attempt to bolster the pass rush, the Ravens have explored a deal with free-agent pass rusher Justin Houston in recent weeks/months.
Aside from this, however, the team doesn’t seem to be making any serious moves for other veteran edge rushers. This speaks to their confidence in what they’ve seen from Oweh so far.
This is quite a bit of pressure to put on a player with limited experience who logged zero sacks last season. Still, based on what he’s seen, Martindale is confident that Oweh can get the job done.
“I guarantee, he’s going to be on the quarterback. He’s going to hit the quarterback, so don’t worry about that.”