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Can David Ojabo and Charlie Kolar still make an impact this season?

NFL: Baltimore Ravens Minicamp Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

As the Ravens enter the backend stretch of the regular season, one interesting storyline that has recently developed is the statuses of David Ojabo and Charlie Kolar. Two draft picks from this year’s draft class, Ojabo and Kolar have yet to take the field in 2022. Both players recently returned from injury but are now in a bit of a limbo on the roster.

The Ravens did not draft Ojabo with the expectation that he’d be guaranteed to play come December, let alone at all this season. The former Michigan Wolverine was on the mend recovering from a torn Achilles injury suffered in February. However, Ojabo’s rehab efforts evidently went quicker than expected and he returned to practice on October 12.

That opened up the 21-day window for the Ravens to move him off injured reserve and onto the active roster. Ojabo has been a full participant in practice for well over a month now but has not made his way onto a gameday roster. The same can be said for Kolar.

Kolar had previously undergone sports hernia surgery in early August and missed the entirety of training camp and preseason action. Just less than a week later after Ojabo, on October 18, Kolar too returned to practice for the first time. Similarly, he has been a gameday inactive for the past few weeks since being placed on the 53-man roster.

The Ravens obviously drafted both players with the intention of them contributing and making an impact for the team. Expectations for Ojabo were different given his pre-draft injury but after Kolar’s surgery a few months ago, the two rookies are essentially in the same boat now.

They’ve returned from injury and are practicing regularly, yet have not managed to secure a call-up on Sunday. Thus the begs the question, is there a path for either rookie to make a legitimate impact this season?

When asked in press conferences over the past few weeks, John Harbaugh has repeatedly talked about a “ramping up” period for Ojabo and Kolar before they take the field. Given they missed so much valuable time in the summer, this is understandable. Repetitions are important.

At the same time, though, Harbaugh said just this week that while Ojabo was getting close to returning, he was again inactive this past Sunday because, “of a numbers thing at his position.”

Defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald echoed a similar sentiment on Thursday while addressing the media.

“He’s in a good spot, but it’s also a tough spot because of the numbers that we have,” Macdonald said on Ojabo. “Then, whoever grabs their helmet, it’s always a numbers game going into that week, too . . . it’s a week-by-week basis,”

Macdonald also noted that he tells Ojabo to “practice really fast” and “almost make it impossible for us not to dress you.” Based on these comments from both coaches, it’s pretty clear that the issue isn’t as a simple as Ojabo not being healthy enough to play after recovering from injury — far from it.

The Ravens did just return Tyus Bowser to the lineup and signed Jason Pierre-Paul earlier in the season, making their edge rusher room a bit crowded. Neither Bowser nor “JPP” will ever be gameday scratches, nor will Justin Houston or Odafe Oweh. If Ojabo is to suit up soon, the Ravens would have to subtract somewhere else.

As for Kolar, it seemed highly likely that he too would make his debut in Jacksonville in Week 12. His fellow rookie tight end Isaiah Likely was ruled out due to injury, opening a space at the position. The Ravens did not activate Kolar, however, and instead Josh Oliver took on an elevated snap count while Nick Boyle also played.

Similar to outside linebacker, the Ravens’ tight end room is crowded. Mark Andrews, Isaiah Likely and Josh Oliver have been regular snap-getters on gamedays. If Kolar is to carve out a role, it’d likely be at the expense of Boyle, whose role this season has been very limited.

Even so, though, with Pat Ricard also in the mix as a pseudo-tight end hybrid, there likely isn’t many snaps available for Kolar to absorb even if he does suit up. If and when Ojabo is thrown into the mix, he too would likely face an uphill battle for playing time with four established edge rushers on the depth chart.

If the Ravens ultimately could receive contributions from Ojabo and/or Kolar in the coming weeks, either player is talented enough to become a difference-maker. For now, we can only continue to wait and see when this rookie pair finally takes the field.

The recent trend surrounding this development suggest a redshirt-type season, if not a complete redshirt season, is certainly a possibility.