In Week 1 of the 2023 regular season, the Baltimore Ravens welcomed the Houston Texans to town for their home opener. In a game that they were favored to win by double digits coming in and despite enduring heavy casualties on the injury front, the team was able to take care of business thanks in no small part to some of their less-heralded players on both sides of the ball.
This article highlights the players whose performances flew under the radar but were still clutch, the unsung heroes.
OLB Odafe Oweh
While the third-year pro wasn’t one of the five Ravens defenders to record a sack, he was by far their most consistent and disruptive pass rusher on Sunday. Oweh relentlessly brought the heat and generated pressure off the edge going up against three-time Pro Bowler Laremy Tunsil. His get-off and quickness were so explosive at times that he drew multiple holding penalties. He finished with 3 total tackles, a team-leading 3 quarterback hits, and according to Pro Football Focus, he recorded 7 pressures which tied for the second most in the league in Week 1.
Most pressures, Week 1— Steve Palazzolo (@PFF_Steve) September 11, 2023
Jalen Carter, Eagles 8
Arden Key, Titans 8
Aidan Hutchinson, Lions 7
Odafe Oweh, Ravens 7
Jaelan Phillips, Dolphins 7
Denico Autry, Titans 7
DB Ar’Darius Washington
The former undrafted free agent in 2021 finally carved out a nice role for himself in the Ravens defense as the starting nickel and didn’t disappoint in the season opener. Washington was flying around all over the field to get in on tackles, played tight in coverage, and was very effective as a blitzer off the edge. He finished with the fifth-most total tackles on the team with 6, a tackle for loss, a pass breakup, a quarterback hit, and his first career sack that helped kill a fourth-quarter drive by the Texans after they had crossed midfield.
Good recognition and adjustment by Ar'Darius Washington in the slot on this third-down stop. Originally sent on a blitz, he quickly re-routed to string this play out as his teammates rallied to help. pic.twitter.com/wJRC3SDWY9— Ryan Mink (@ryanmink) September 12, 2023
EDGE Jadeveon Clowney
The three-time Pro Bowler didn’t pad the box score stat sheet but he was very impactful in the season opener both as an edge setter against the run and as a consistent pass rush presence. Clowney recorded just 1 tackle and 1 quarterback hit but was involved in numerous pressure events including one where he forced Stroud to step up into the pocket and into Washington’s arm for his sack. He would’ve had a pair of sacks of his own had he not let the rookie quarterback slip out of his grasp before finishing the play.
As aesthetically displeasing as it is to still see him wearing the No. 24, at least he’s making impactful plays with a purple and black jersey on nonetheless. Expect him to be even more impactful moving forward as he gets even more acclimated to Mike Macdonald’s defense and gets in even better football shape given that he was a late training camp signing.
RB Gus Edwards
The sixth-year veteran led all Ravens running back with 32 rushing yards and averaged a modest 4 yards per carry on a day where every player not named Lamar Jackson struggled to find any traction in the ground game. More important than just leading the team’s non-quarterback ball carriers in yards was the type of yards that he was gaining.
Edwards’ first touch didn’t come until the second half after starter J.K. Dobbins went out and it just happened to be a successful two-point conversion attempt that put the Ravens up by two scores. He picked up 16 yards on his next two carries combined for 16 yards including a long of 13 to jumpstart what would be a second-straight touchdown drive in the third quarter.
DT Michael Pierce
The eighth-year veteran interior defensive lineman played a vital role in making the Texans have to play one-dimensional and essentially abandon their run game. He made it tough sledding to move the ball between the tackles, helped limit Houston running back Dameon Pierce to just 38 rushing yards on 11 carries, and regularly occupied multiple blockers which allowed the Ravens elite inside backer duo to wreak havoc. Pierce finished with 3 total tackles, and a fumble recovery, and even though he didn’t register a sack or quarterback hit, his presence as an interior pass rusher was still apparent at times.
Michael Pierce still looks cat quick.— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) September 12, 2023
Clean win with a club and arm over here to force Stroud off his spot and check down on third and long. pic.twitter.com/jAx448X07t
P Jordan Stout
It’s hard to ignore the greatness of Ravens future Hall of Fame kicker Justin Tucker as he is the gold standard of which every player at his position wishes to reach. The second-year punter on the other hand, might just be on his way to having a breakout season after the incredible performance he had against the Texans.
Stout was able to pin Houston’s offense back deep inside their own 20-yard line on three of his five attempts with a long of 67 and an average of 49.8. His ability to be a field-flipping weapon via special teams will be a really valuable asset this season if he can keep it up even if the rest of the league and media doesn’t take notice.