If there were two things you could absolutely count on this past summer while watching the Ravens practice at training camp, they were James Proche looking like a smaller version of Randy Moss, and Odafe Oweh looking like a taller version of Von Miller.
So… neither of those things have exactly carried over to the regular season.
Proche, as you’ve probably seen numerous places this week, has barely compiled more receiving yards (53) than penalty yards (39) — not an ideal place to land statistically when you’re, well, a receiver. Still, Proche is a former sixth-round draft pick, and has probably performed to that status to this point in his career. Anything above that is exceeding realistic expectations, if we’re being completely honest.
Oweh, on the other hand, was the first-round pick with the alien talent who was showing up every day in the summer against legitimate NFL starters, and absolutely destroying reps for the offense. There was one red-zone drill this summer in which I saw Oweh break loose for what would have been sacks on two reps, and a run-stuff on a third.
Those were on back-to-back-to-back plays, by the way.
It felt realistic to expect 10 sacks from Oweh this season. There was legitimate talk amongst people who follow the Ravens closely that Oweh was going to have a monster campaign, and be that quarterback-chasing menace the Ravens hadn’t had since Terrell Suggs was destroying the life expectancy rates of opposing signal-callers.
To this point, after 10 games, Oweh has one sack. That’s one more than Suggs has this season. It’s the same amount as Brandon Copeland — and he made a young man shave his head over that aforementioned sack. PFF has Oweh rated 92nd out of 116 players at his position, and he hasn’t contributed those “splash” plays that we saw from his throughout the course of his rookie campaign, or at any point of this summer.
Now, Oweh hasn’t just had the chance to pin back his ears and rush the quarterback this season, to be fair. At least not to a high rate, because he has been handling other responsibilities, particularly while Tyus Bowser was out. He has done a nice job of handling his “wide” responsibilities, directing running backs into the teeth of a formidable Ravens interior, and rushing the quarterback from outside time and time again to keep them from breaking the pocket.
Still. One sack. It’s fair to point out that Oweh has done great stuff in regards to his “role” on the defense, and putting in the dirty work to help out his unit, while also suggesting that a team does not invest a first-round pick in an insanely-athletic talent just to get yeoman’s work out of him. They want, and expect, a game-wrecker.
And that can still happen, mind you. Oweh has every physical trait you’d want, and every word coming out of Owings Mills is that he is a tireless worker who has high expectations for himself. Surrounding him in a unit that features established, successful veterans like Calais Campbell, Justin Houston, Jason Pierre-Paul and Roquan Smith, among others, seems to add another element in his favor in terms of taking his game to that next level.
It’s obvious that the Ravens are expecting more out of Oweh, as well. His playing time has dropped from a high of 95.3 percent of the defensive snaps against the Buffalo Bills to a season-low 40.4-percent against the Panthers last weekend, per Pro Football Reference. Some of that is the return of Bowser, who has looked really good, and the outstanding performance of Houston, but Oweh is expected to be in that echelon this year, as well — one of the game-wreckers, if you’re sensing a trend in my expectations.
It is only his second season, so let’s not get too out of shape over his future yet. Remember second-year Patrick Queen? People were ready to Elvis Grbac-him right out of town last year, and now he’s playing like an upper-end linebacker in 2022, particularly since the arrival of Smith. It’s been said before by people much smarter than myself, and will be said again by even more people smarter than myself — but you really have to see what you have in a player in his third season before you label him “in ink.”
Oweh hasn’t met those lofty expectations so many have had for him to this point, but a back-half of the season featuring some “splashes” and some counting stats can change the narrative for him going into season three, and can hopefully elevate this improving Ravens’ defense into becoming a true menace for a playoff run.