The Baltimore Ravens have seen their fair share of great defensive players in the franchise’s 26-year history. Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and Terrell Suggs have left lasting impacts on the city of Baltimore and have paved the way for the next line of great Ravens defenders. General manager Eric DeCosta and the Ravens’ front office struck gold when they drafted Odafe Oweh in the 2021 NFL Draft.
The Baltimore Ravens pride themselves on dominant defense
The Baltimore Ravens have boasted a perennially strong defensive unit for the greater part of the team’s history. It took former general manager Ozzie Newsome just a few years to build a dominant defense in Charm City.
The 2000 Ravens defense is arguably the greatest of all time. The unquestioned leader of the defense was linebacker Ray Lewis. He was the franchise’s second pick in their inaugural 1996 draft class.
The unit, coached by defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis, featured talent at every level. Michael McCrary, Peter Boulware, and Rod Woodson are just some of the names who contributed to the Ravens’ 2000 Super Bowl run.
Since 2000, Baltimore has finished with a top 10 defense 14 times. The team never had an elite offense until Lamar Jackson arrived in town. Therefore, the defense needed to pick up the slack and even score on occasions.
Ray Lewis was the emotional leader of the Ravens defense for 17 seasons and galvanized his teammates to lay it out on the field every play. To this day, Baltimore is known as a hard-nosed, gritty football team on both sides of the ball.
Odafe Oweh adds a different dimension to the Ravens defense
The Ravens entered the 2021 draft with a few glaring needs. The front office addressed two of the biggest in the first round. First, it was wide receiver Rashod Bateman out of Minnesota. Then, they selected Penn State edge rusher Odafe Oweh with the No. 31 overall pick.
Oweh was an intriguing prospect heading into the draft, but questions were surrounding his productivity in college. He registered seven sacks in his first two seasons combined at Penn State. However, he didn’t record a single sack during his junior campaign.
Oweh’s presence was felt in other ways for the Nittany Lions’ defense, though. His college tape flashed his length and overall athletic ability. This allowed Oweh to still cause problems for opposing offenses.
The Hackensack, New Jersey native’s counting stats in college are misleading. The Draft Network projected Oweh as a potential double-digit sack edge rusher before the draft. He was just raw and lacked ideal experience for the position.
The rookie pass rusher has fit right in with the Baltimore Ravens. He’s flying to the football and using his unique skillset to make big plays for the defense. The Ravens defense has never featured an edge rusher with such freakish athleticism, and the investment is paying off.
Oweh can contend for Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2021
Several rookie defenders have made strong early cases to win the 2021 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Award.
Micah Parsons‘ dynamic ability has elevated a Dallas Cowboys defense that was porous in 2020. Cornerbacks Patrick Surtain II of the Denver Broncos and Asante Samuel Jr. of the Los Angeles Chargers come from NFL pedigrees. Each has made big plays for their respective teams.
Odafe Oweh has made some game-changing plays for the Ravens defense as well. The Penn State product recorded 10 tackles, six quarterback hits, two sacks, and a forced fumble through the first four weeks. His 10 QB pressures lead the team and rank No. 19 in the NFL.
Oweh has used his athletic tools to his advantage and is regularly winning matchups. He’s also excelled at defending the run. His presence in Baltimore’s attacking defense has done wonders thus far in 2021.
The inexperienced pass rusher no longer needs his training wheels, and the NFL is in trouble.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.