While there is a lot of hype and excitement for the arrival of veteran newcomer Justin Houston and the impact he’ll have on the Baltimore Ravens’ pass rush in 2021, rookie edge rusher Odafe Oweh has been turning heads and is generating buzz at training camp.
“I think yesterday was good, today was better, and I just continue to see it climb,” Defensive Coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale said Wednesday. “The biggest thing for a rookie is they know the defense; they get lined up; they’ve still got to play with good technique. And sometimes in the up-tempo type drills, we’ve just got to get him more disciplined with his technique, as well as all the rookies.”
The Ravens selected Oweh No. 31 overall in the first round of this year’s draft out of Penn State. He possesses elite athleticism and has flashed it throughout the first week of training camp both as a pass rusher and run defender. He’s been beating tackles around the edge with good speed and bend and harassing quarterbacks by flushing them out of the pocket and chasing them to the sideline for a loss or no gain.
Oweh was a tremendous run defender in college but only produced seven sacks in 20 career games, none of which came in 2020 during his junior year. That’s expected to change in the pros since Martindale intends to utilize him any way he can to apply pressure on opposing signal-callers.
“This kid, he’s going to be a good one,” Martindale said. “Don’t worry about it; we’re going to find ways to get him on the quarterback, because he’s going to get there, and he’s going to get there really fast. So, I have great hopes for him. I think that he’s going to be a great football player for us, and I don’t just throw around the word great. I think he’s going to be a problem.”
He’ll likely play a lot more on early downs as a rookie but could become an every-down player that never comes off the field if he develops more as a pass rusher. Having seasoned veterans like Houston and six-time Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell learn from will be tremendous assets for Oweh. They will serve as coaches on the field who will make his job easier by commanding more attention from opposing offenses.
The Ravens have selected just two edge rushers in the first round in the first 25 years of the franchise prior to taking Oweh this year. He has the potential to follow in the footsteps of Baltimore sports legends Peter Boulware and Terrell Suggs as the next homegrown anchor of their pass rush for years to come.