The Baltimore Ravens brought in an influx of talent this off-season in form of veteran and rookie acquisitions via the draft, free agency, and trade. One of those additions was veteran offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva who spent the first six years of his career playing for the rival Pittsburgh Steelers.
The two-time Pro Bowler stepped to the podium for the first time during training camp on Thursday and shared his thoughts and that he likes what he’s been seeing from rookie outside linebackers Odafe Oweh and Daelin Hayes thus far.
"@DaelinHayes_IX has an unbelievable motor. That's going to help him a lot...— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) August 12, 2021
@JaysonOweh is probably the fastest person on the football field and will be probably the fastest in most of the games he'll play." Alejandro Villanueva pic.twitter.com/Uq5Bxs0A0Z
Oweh was the second of the Ravens’ two first-round picks in this year’s draft and Hayes was the second of their three picks in the fifth round. Neither will likely start as rookies barring injury but both of them are expected to see the field regularly and have an impact in their first years.
Villanueva is transitioning to right tackle after playing on the blindside for his entire career up to this point and he’s gotten a first-hand look at what the two rookies can do with and without pads on.
He commended Hayes for having a high motor which should come in clutch when chasing down plays in the backfield, down the field and when he’s rushing quarterbacks that hold on to the ball longer than they should.
“He has an unbelievable motor,” said Villanueva. “I think that’s going to help him a lot. I think a lot of times the play seems to be over but it’s never over for him. That’s his greatest asset.”
He praised Oweh for displaying some of the elite athletic traits that attracted the Ravens to the former Penn State Nittany Lion during the pre-draft process, his blazing speed.
“Odafe is probably the fastest player on the football field and he will be the fastest in most of the games that he’ll play,” said Villanueva. “His speed is definitely an asset. It’s crazy to somebody come off the edge that quickly.
Even though Oweh was listed as the second string SAM linebacker spot on the PR depth chart that was released earlier this week, Hayes is both better suited and has been taking the majority of snaps behind starter Tyus Bowser in camp. While Oweh has the capability to play SAM as well, he has mostly lined up at RUSH linebacker and will likely be a part of the rotation at that spot with veterans Justin Houston and Pernell McPhee.
“The kid has some speed but has to put the whole thing together,” said Villanueva. “I’m his No.1 fan, I want to cheer him, he’s my horse on the race and going to be on the bench hopefully watching him make a lot of good plays this year.”
Like Villanueva, the Ravens will be rooting for Oweh as well as Hayes to succeed and are hoping that the pair of first-year edge defenders will translate their potential into production this season. They have an opportunity to play behind and alongside some seasoned veterans this year on defense which will not only take away some of the pressure to pop as rookies but it will also give them more time to develop.