When a highly-drafted rookie doesn't set the world on fire in their first taste of NFL action, doubters often emerge from and prematurely criticize them for not producing eye popping stats. That's exactly what CBS Sports' Chris Trapasso did when he labeled Baltimore Ravens rookie outside linebacker, Odafe Oweh, the most disappointing first-round rookie through the first two weeks of the preseason.
The Ravens selected Oweh with the No. 31 overall pick out of Penn State in this year’s draft. The former Nittany Lion was widely viewed as a developmental prospect with elite athleticism but needed some polish and refinement. He only played in 20 games in college and recorded just seven career sacks, none of which came in his final season.
Unlike Trapasso, who hasn't even been attendance for a single Ravens' practices — joint or otherwise as Oweh’s coaches like what they've seen from him. They’re encouraged by the progress he's made in his development.
"We couldn't be more pleased with where he's at right now," said Outside Linebackers Coach Drew Wilkins. "The thing that he has that not a lot of rookies do is he's got that sense of urgency. He understands [that] we have big expectations for him, from Week One. This isn't a project."
The Ravens don't have intentions on bringing Oweh along slowly or let him sit like some first- round quarterbacks do as rookies. They intend on getting him on the field early and in as many ways as Defensive Coordinator Don 'Wink' Martindale and his staff can come up with.
"This is a guy who's going to come in and play for us right away," said Wilkins. "Whether it's the run game, whether it's executing the defense, whether it's his one-on-one pass rush, whether it's two-on-two games, whether it's anything that he needs to do to execute highly in our defense, he needs to be there now, and we feel great about where he's at. [With] that sense of urgency, every rep matters, every day matters."
Wilkins said that he had an opportunity to watch Baltimore Orioles’ catcher Adley Rutschman this summer. Rutschman had the last three years to develop since being selected in the first round of the 2019 MLB Draft out of Oregon State. Given the patience that comes with the sport he plays, there isn't the same amount of immediate return that NFL teams require from their highly drafted players.
"He’s got three years to get ready; we’ve got three preseason games," said Wilkins while chuckling. "We’re going to hit the ground running right now. He knows that.”
Oweh's role with the Ravens will be multifaceted and likely include playing a fair amount on special teams this year. The Ravens will try their best to put him in optimal positions to be disruptive: setting the edge against run, dropping into coverage or generating pressure as a rusher.