Entering his fourth season in the NFL, Patrick Onwuasor has come a long way. Originally a raw, undrafted rookie who generally played special teams, “Peanut” has gradually improved throughout his career and has worked his way into becoming a starting-caliber linebacker.
Last season, he was instrumental in the overall success of the Ravens No. 1 overall defense, particularly after the bye week. Now, he’s set to take on an even bigger role, both in leadership and his role on the field.
Here are four goals for Onwuasor heading into the 2019-20 season. Be sure to join the conversation and share your thoughts below!
1) Pick up where he left off
Speaking of after the bye week, Onwuasor was one of the team’s most impactful players over the second half of the season. From November 18th until the end of the regular season, “Peanut” posted 3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, three stuffs, and 32 combined tackles. In Baltimore’s lone playoff matchup against the Chargers, Onwuasor had seven tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. Although it was just one game, his impressive PFF grade of 92.4 led all linebackers in the postseason. He also came up huge against Los Angeles in the team’s Week 16 tilt during the regular season, when Onwuasor’s forced fumble in the fourth quarter initiated the Ravens’ game-winning touchdown. If Onwuasor can hit the ground running next season, Baltimore’s defense will reap the benefits.
2) Command the defense
For the first time in his career, Onwuasor will have the headset in his helmet next season. C.J. Mosley occupied this role for several years and if he was unavailable to play, veteran safety Eric Weddle filled in. Both Mosley and Weddle are gone, though, and Onuwasor appears ready to step up as the defensive shot-caller. While communication on the Ravens defense is a collective effort across the board, Onwuasor will be tasked with making sure others know the correct assignments and are in the right spots before the snap. It certainly isn’t an easy job, but Onwuasor has a whole offseason to prepare for the learning curve that may come next season. Also working in his favor is multiple years of experience in Don Martindale’s scheme, as well as experience playing alongside established veterans.
3) Vindicate the Ravens confidence in him
Baltimore’s decision to let Mosley walk in free agency had a lot do with the price tag he demanded, as Eric DeCosta didn’t want to match the record-breaking deal the Jets gave him. However, they likely would have pushed harder to retain him if the organization didn’t feel confident in their other options at the position. The Ravens didn’t address the linebacker position in the draft, which many expected them to do, nor did they add anyone in free agency. The latter could still happen before the season begins but if the Ravens were to sign someone, it would be more for depth-purposes than anything.
Addressing the media on the final day of minicamp, head coach John Harbaugh said he anticipates a “three-man rotation” at the linebacker position, which entails Onwuasor seeing all the snaps and Kenny Young and Chris Board splitting reps alongside him. The front office and coaching staff are clearly comfortable with Onwuasor being “the man” next season, and justifying their confidence should be a priority for him.
4) Set a new career-high in tackles
With several tackling-leaders from years prior playing elsewhere, it’s safe to say there will be plenty of tackles to go around on defense next season. In my personal opinion, tackles are a bit of an overrated stat, but that’s besides the point. As the main man in the middle of the field, Onwuasor will have all the chances in the world to set a new career-high in the stat. Last season, “Peanut” recorded 59 combined tackles, which represented a regression from the 2017-18 campaign, where he posted 90. Onwuasor’s pursuit to the ball and aggression has always been impressive and as a bondafide starter and every-down player for the first time, shattering his previous tackling totals should be an individual goal for sure.