After losing Zachary Orr to retirement, the Baltimore Ravens needed a starting inside linebacker to pair up with C.J. Mosley. Two candidates have emerged from the roster: 2016 second round pick Kamalei Correa and 2016 undrafted rookie free agent Patrick Onwuasor.
Both Correa and Onwuasor saw limited action last season. In nine games played, Correa made just two tackles, with one assist. Onwuasor made one tackle, with nine assists and a forced fumble in 11 games.
During this preseason, Onwuasor has made play after play, seeing time with the first-team defense. On Saturday night, he made a big play in which he forced a fumble and recovered it to seal the 13-9 victory against the Buffalo Bills.
After going undrafted, Onwuasor signed with the Ravens in May of 2016. Now competing for a starting role, he has impressed his head coach John Harbaugh.
"He has a large role on the defense," Harbaugh said of Onwuasor via the team’s website. "He plays a lot on the defense. He's competing the same way Kamalei is competing. We'll look at the tapes and see all the details, but that [fumble] was a huge play."
The road to the starting role has been a long one for Onwuasor. He was once an extremely talented safety with the Arizona Wildcats. As a reserve freshman, he made 36 tackles and was in line to compete for a starting spot next season. However, he would be dismissed from the team after being charged with four felonies.
After spending a year out of football, Onwuasor arrived at Portland State in his junior season and made 53 tackles, tying for third-most on the team, three tackles for a loss, a sack, two pass breakups, and an interception returned for a touchdown. He also made two starts at linebacker during the season.
Onwuasor would improve upon his effort during his senior season, making 85 tackles, three tackles for a loss and nine interceptions for 157 return yards. He wouldn’t be invited to the NFL Combine, but his stock rose during his Pro Day. Onwuasor ran a 4.62 40-yard dash, completed 24 reps of 225 lbs on the bench press, had a 36 1⁄2 vertical jump, 10’03” broad jump, a 4.60 20-yard shuttle and a 7.51 on the 3-cone drill.
Baltimore usually doesn’t play starters during the fourth preseason game, but they could give Onwuasor and Correa some more snaps to evaluate both players. There could also be a middle linebacker-by-committee situation at hand. Onwuasor, Correa and even Anthony Levine Sr. could see time at the position.