When the Baltimore Ravens selected rookie outside linebacker Odafe Oweh with the second of their two first-round picks in this year’s draft at No. 31 overall, he got labeled as a project that would take time to develop. However, through the first four games of the 2021 regular season, he is already making an immediate impact.
Oweh has a pair of sacks—tied for the team lead, a forced fumble, three tackles for loss, and six quarterback hits—first on the team.
Many pundits predicted that the uber-athletic specimen out of Penn State would be best suited as a situational pass rusher in year one. That is a label that Oweh has been fighting to avoid ever since his freshman year of college when his coaches wanted to use him as a ‘pass rush specialist’. He prides himself on being multi-dimensional and strives to be the kind of edge defender that never has to come off the field.
“I hate that,” Oweh said. “I try to make sure I’m good in every phase. That’s definitely my goal to try to be an every-down linebacker.”
Oweh is already well on his way toward accomplishing his goal as he leads all Ravens outside linebackers in total defensive snaps and defensive snap percentage thus far. He sees the field early and often and has proven to be just as impressive setting the edge and defending the run as he is when he’s pressuring opposing quarterbacks.
Defensive Coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale has been utilizing his unique blend of size, speed, and athleticism in a plethora of ways in order to set him and his teammates up for success. In the Ravens’ 23-7 win over the Denver Broncos this past Sunday, he had Oweh and veteran Tyus Bowser line up on the same side in certain situations with the rookie kicking inside to play defensive end/five-technique in sub-packages.
Both players recorded at least one sack, Bowser recorded another and his first came on one of the instances where they were rushing from the same side. Oweh nearly had a second which would’ve been the first multi-sack game of his career but he wasn’t able to bring Drew Lock to the ground before the ball was released on a play that ended getting penalized for offensive holding. Penalty aside, the rookie was still bothered by that play days later and wants to learn from it.
“That one’s still in my mind,” Oweh said. “That’s just growing pains. I’ve got to track him better. As the game gets passed along and I get more experience, I’m going to make that tackle.”
Oweh possesses the skillset and physical dimensions to not only rush from the inside but also has the speed and agility to drop into coverage and move well in space. He is pleased with the progress he has made but isn’t getting complacent and is far from satisfied.
“I think I’ve adjusted pretty well for a rookie. I can get better in terms of reading everything and playing a little bit faster. But I feel my athleticism helps me in a lot of spaces where other rookies might struggle. But there’s always room for improvement.”
It is still very early in his career but if the start of his rookie season is any indication of what is to come, Oweh won’t just be a great every-down defender. He’s already been named AFC Defensive Player of the Week once and if he keeps it up, he’ll eventually join the likes of Lamar Jackson, Ronnie Stanley, and Marlon Humphrey as one of the cornerstone pillars of the franchise.