One of the many challenges first-year players face when making the transition from college to the pros is not only the grind itself, but the length of it. After playing no more than 12 games in the regular season with a maximum of 14 if they make it all the way to the national championship game, most rookies will be playing deep into December and hopefully January for the very first time in their lives.
The proverbial ‘rookie wall’ can be described as period or point in the mid-to-late portion of the regular season of a first year pro where their body begins to break down, their play starts to regress, or a combination of the two. The Baltimore Ravens do not believe that it is necessarily fiction but rather a state of mind that they try help their rookies stray away from and with and expanded season, it means one more game that counts will be on the schedule.
“We’ve always tried to ignore that, because I think it’s more psychological than anything,” Head Coach Harbaugh said. “The season’s tough, it’s challenging for everybody. How it’s going to play out for a 17-game season, I don’t know.
An argument can be made for veterans Calais Campbell or Chuck Clark as to who has been the most consistently high performing defender through the Ravens first nine games of the 2021 season. However, Oweh has arguably been the most impactful by far with his ability to come up with clutch plays and use his elite athleticism to defend both the run and pass at a high level.
He currently ranks first among all rookies in pressures with 29 according to PFF, leads the team in sacks with four, and is one of the front runners to win Defensive Rookie of the Year Award. Oweh echoed his coach’s sentiments about not believing in that he’ll hit the ‘rookie wall’ or that it even exists all together.
“We don’t believe in a rookie wall here,” Oweh said. “You see adversity and you just keep on pushing, keep on working to try and get better. We’re on the second half of the season and it’s time to ramp it up. You’ve got to raise your level of play because everyone else is, too.”
When the Ravens selected him with the second of their two first round round selections in this year’s draft, he was labeled as a project prospect that would need time and a limited role to grow and adjust at the next level. Oweh has not only hit the ground running but he dispelled preconceived notions about him and his ability to rush the passer along the way and is only getting better by the week. He appears to just be scratching the surface on what looks like a bright future in both the immediate and long-term future.
“I’m very excited about (Oweh’s) future and present, more interested in the present but excited about where he’s going to go,” said Harbaugh.
A player on an opposing team that Oweh is competing with each week on a personal level is his former fellow Nittany Lion, Micah Parsons. The Dallas Cowboys first round pick has been every bit as disruptive to start the season and is also one of the top candidates garnering attention for DROY. Their friendly quest to outdo each other inspires both to strive for and play better.
“When we were at Penn State, he was the only one who could push me and I was the only one that could push him,” Oweh said. “We’re just trying to carry that to the league. He’s got me in sacks right now. I’ve got to ramp that up. I’m proud of him, happy for everything that’s he’s doing for his rookie of the year campaign. But I told him, I’m right there with him.”
The Ravens will be taking on arguably the worst pass blocking offensive line in the league when they travel to Chicago to face the Bears in Week 11. This will likely provide Oweh with the opportunity to both catch and surpass Parsons in sacks as he continues to prove that he is immune to the ‘rookie wall’.