One of the most notable standouts for the Baltimore Ravens during their offseason program training camp has been second-year outside linebacker David Ojabo, who is slated to have a significant role on this year’s defense.
Ojabo was projected to be a first round selection in the 2022 NFL Draft before suffering a torn Achilles at the University of Michigan’s pro day that caused him to fall to the second round where the Ravens took him at No. 45 overall. His rehab caused him to miss the vast majority of his rookie season but he still managed to see action in three games and record his first career strip sack in the regular season finale.
FIRST SACK FOR OJABO AND GETS THE STRIP— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) January 8, 2023
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While Ojabo has been a consistently disruptive force and menace of offensive tackles in practice, through the first two weeks of the preseason, those flashes have yet to manifest themselves in live action albeit in limited snaps. Nevertheless, his lack of pass rush production against starting and primary backup offensive linemen over the past two weeks has Pro Football Focus’ Gordon McGuinness ready to pump the brakes on the former Wolverine’s hype train a little bit and “temper” some of the lofty expectations being placed on the potential break out candidate.
“We saw the Ravens’ 2022 second-round pick flash late last season, notably by forcing a fumble in their Week 18 game against the Cincinnati Bengals, prompting Ravens fans to get excited about Ojabo’s potential with a full offseason behind him,” McGuinness wrote. “The potential is very much still there after an impressive final season at Michigan in 2021, but his play through two weeks of preseason is enough to press pause on that excitement, at least for now.”
According to PFF, Ojabo has been on the field for 21 pass rush snaps during the preseason thus far and has recorded just one pressure.
“He’s struggling to get off blocks, and the power just isn’t there when he tries to bull rush,” McGuinness wrote. “The Ravens added Jadeveon Clowney last week, which raises the floor of their edge defender — something that looks like it might be needed early in the season at this stage.”
While the addition of the former No. 1 overall pick and three-time Pro Bowler has some pundits pondering if it will impact Ojabo negatively, it could actually wind up being an even bigger blessing in disguise. Clowney is an elite run defender who has the second-highest run-stop win rate among edge defenders in the NFL since 2017 at 31.5 percent according to ESPN Analytics and Next Gen Stats.
While it will likely lead to fewer starts for Ojabo as the 10th-year plays the run on early downs, he’ll have more opportunities and fresher legs to get after opposing quarterbacks in obvious passing situations on later downs.
The 23-year-old is still relatively new to the game of football altogether having only picked it up later in his high school career and only had one real year of playing time and production in college which came in 2021 when he recorded 11 sacks under Ravens Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald.
Now that the two are back together again at the professional level and he has had a whole offseason of being healthy and is getting tutelage from renowned pass rush specialist Chuck Smith who was hired as the team’s new Outside Linebackers Coach, Ojabo’s breakout is only matter of when it will happen, not if it will happen.