Ravens: Realistic expectations for Odafe Oweh in Year 1

Odafe Oweh, Ravens. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Odafe Oweh, Ravens. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

The Baltimore Ravens have a history of drafting elite pass-rushers, and without jinxing it too much, rookie Odafe Oweh could be set for a solid season in 2021.

We know, it’s not a very controversial opinion.

Some NFL analysts have predicted that Oweh would lead all rookies in sacks in 2021, but we wouldn’t go that far. Given that Oweh only had seven sacks throughout his collegiate career, he probably won’t stand out as a sack extraordinaire in Year 1.

That being said, sacks account for only one measure of a pass-rusher’s effectiveness. The Ravens used a first-round pick on him in spite of his mediocre sack production because they believed in his other qualities, like his overall fit in the defensive scheme.

John Harbaugh has already fanboy-ed over Oweh’s ability to learn quickly, has positional coach Drew Wilkins raving about Oweh’s physique and athleticism.

The heaps of praise only skew his projection, and we’re keeping Oweh’s future with the franchise as real as possible.

Based on his recent training camp performances, Oweh is sure to get snaps with the first team. The question is, what will he do with them?

First, some history: the last two edge rushers Baltimore selected in the first round knocked it way out of the park.

2003 pick Terrell Suggs and 1997 pick Peter Boulware combined for 11 Pro Bowls, and they helped the Ravens franchise claim the Lombardi Trophy twice, once in 2001 and another in 2013.

In Suggs’ and Boulware’s rookie years, each defender eclipsed the double-digit sack threshold and also earned Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Not-so-hot take: Baltimore Ravens fans should expect Odafe Oweh to have above-average production

Baltimore has a Vatican chapel-high ceiling for first-round pass-rusher draft picks, and the fact that Oweh’s played the sport for just five years only lowers it ever so slightly.

Oweh rocketed to draft stardom from high school and college, but expect his performance to plateau when he plays in the pro league. There are just some parts of the game that take experience to learn, such as technique and playmaking instincts.

We don’t expect Oweh to get anywhere near Suggs’ or Boulware’s double-digit sacks, but he will become one of the most crucial chess pieces in Martindale’s defensive system this season.

Oweh played in a 4-3 defense in college, so as an outside linebacker in the Ravens’ 3-4 defense, he will adapt to and take on new roles.

Depending on how Oweh fares the rest of camp, Oweh could feature as a disruptive run defender, much like what he was in college, and be primarily responsible for stopping the run.

His explosive, physical traits make him especially fit for the pass-rusher role, though, which is a huge area of concern for Baltimore this year.

Oweh, currently taking notes from Calais Campbell and Justin Houston, may not become the “every-down” player the Ravens want him to be until the middle or end of the season.

He won’t attain the prime levels of production from last year’s Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue, either.

What we can expect, at minimum, is a young and precocious player to find his place in Martindale’s system through trial and error, play by play. Oweh will make mistakes early on, but he will learn from them and get better — that much is guaranteed.

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Year 1 is less of a breakout season than a “breaking-in” season for Odafe Oweh, and while that’s not ideal for the Ravens, it’s exactly what Oweh needs.