The Baltimore Ravens were given a huge boost in Week 6 as they welcomed back linebackers Tyus Bowser and David Ojabo. Both players returned to practice for the first time this season.
Bowser suffered an ACL tear in 2021’s season finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers while Ojabo had suffered an Achilles tear prior to the 2022 NFL Draft. The injury saw Ojabo’s draft stock fall drastically. The top-10 talent ultimately landed with Baltimore in the second round.
Both returns are a huge boost to Baltimore’s edge group, which has received its fair share of injuries of late. The current starters at the position are Odafe Oweh and Jason Pierre-Paul.
It remains to be seen whether Bowser and Ojabo will contribute this season. There is a 21-day window for the team to move either player onto the season-ending IR. Given how their practices have gone, however, this seems unlikely. Neither player is expected to play in Week 6.
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Tyus Bowser, David Ojabo, Hoping To Solidify Ravens Defense
The Ravens edge group was arguably one of the worst in the league entering the season. Jaylon Ferguson’s unfortunate passing only added to this, as they were left with Oweh, A.J. Klein, and veteran Justin Houston.
To remedy their lack of depth, GM Eric DeCosta acquired Pierre-Paul after Houston’s foot injury. The former Tampa Bay Buccaneer has since been excellent for the Ravens and proved his worth against the porous Cincinnati Bengals offensive line. He managed to sack Joe Burrow once but also tacked on two pass deflections and a TFL.
Jason Pierre-Paul had an 80.3 pass rush grade vs the Bengals on Sunday.
The highest by any Raven in a single game this season 😤 pic.twitter.com/aiqbB371PX
— PFF BAL Ravens (@PFF_Ravens) October 11, 2022
Despite the adversity and the doubters, however, the outside linebackers have performed relatively well so far. Oweh has shown huge amounts of improvement and is slowly developing into the pass rusher that many expected him to be. He struggles to finish moves but has been excellent in generating outside pressure.
Their lack of production has been concerning though. The outside linebacking corps (including Brandon Copeland) has managed just five sacks, with Houston claiming two of them. However, Baltimore had found a lot of success in generating interior pressure and stopping the run.
The return of Bowser and Ojabo provides Baltimore with very competent depth. Oweh has been playing nearly 100% of defensive snaps of late and it would be beneficial if the Ravens could figure out a rotation when Bowser and Ojabo are fully healthy. It would also allow Baltimore to use Oweh as more than just an outside linebacker given that he had demonstrated some interior flexibility at Penn State.
Is Ojabo the Future?
Ojabo was one of the top prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft. At Michigan, he showed that he was an elite athlete with extraordinary physical traits.
I don't expect him to be taken tonight but there's a chance. David Ojabo is one of my favourite prospects in this class but his injury has decreased his #NFLDraft value drastically pic.twitter.com/qQ4wtgMGws
— Curtis Leung (@CurtisLeung6) April 28, 2022
One of the biggest knocks on Ojabo in the pre-draft build-up was that he was aided by one of the draft’s top edge rushers at the college level. Said teammate, Aidan Hutchinson, was the second-overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Selected by the Detroit Lions, he was arguably the top prospect in the class and absolutely dominated his collegiate peers.
Without an elite edge rusher at Baltimore, the expectation rests on Ojabo to be the primary threat. When the team is back to full health, it is most likely that Ojabo will play opposite Oweh or Pierre-Paul. While both have played well, neither are ‘elite’ edge rushers in the same way that Ojabo is expected to be.
The other question surrounds the injury. Ojabo was primarily a speed-rusher at college level. The Achilles tear may have impacted his play style, it remains to be seen. For Baltimore, however, the hope is that Ojabo can come back stronger than ever.