The pass rush was firmly on the minds of the Baltimore Ravens fan base as the offseason process began. Can David Ojabo ease those concerns?
The Baltimore Ravens Biggest Needs
Aside from the offensive line, which was an additional sticking point for fans, the lack of a steady pass rush from the Baltimore front seven was noticeable throughout the season and was firmly in the running for the team’s top need. The Baltimore Ravens finished towards the bottom of the league in terms of sacks on opponents despite possessing former All-Pros such as Justin Houston. Sure some of this can be attributed to the injuries sustained in the secondary as the season progressed, however, it was abundantly clear the Baltimore Ravens needed that extra push.
There were a few points during the initial run of free agency where the organization could have been in play for top veteran options however the timing, nor the money wasn’t right. During the draft, the Baltimore Ravens were fortunate enough to have Florida State pass rusher Jermaine Johnson III fall to them at pick 14 and again at 25, however they decided to go in different directions. Again to the astounding luck of Baltimore, in the second round, they finally landed their future edge rusher in Michigan’s David Ojabo.
Ojabo fell to pick 45 in the 2022 NFL Draft after he suffered an unfortunate Achilles injury during his pro day this past March. Many evaluators, including myself, felt Ojabo was worthy of a first-round pick and would have likely been in play for the Baltimore Ravens when they picked inside the top twenty.
While we shouldn’t expect to see Ojabo for training camp let alone for much of the season, it’s important to see what his usage could be once he’s finally able to see the field. He’s an athletic phenom who also displayed plenty of flashy upside as a pass rusher that can help make his transition more steady.
One of the biggest knocks on Ojabo from talent evaluators was how he defended against the run. While he was consistently able to get leverage against tight ends using his natural tools, Ojabo was used more as a gap penetrator that can create havoc in the backfield. He was never asked to consistently deconstruct blocks versus offensive tackles and will be an area he could struggle with at the next level. As such, when Ojabo is healthy, it’s likely his role as a run defender will be limited early on during his rookie year.
As such, Ojabo’s primary role could be as a designated pass rusher who Baltimore schemes into one-on-one matchups. Last year, the Baltimore Ravens used Odafe Oweh in a similar fashion, putting him in wide alignments where he can deploy his speed-to-power rush to leverage pressure into the backfield. Both Oweh and Ojabo have incredible athletic prowess which allows them to put opponents on skates and allows them to corner the QB.
Ojabo has a bit more of an advantage than Oweh did, as his hand usage is much more developed coming out of the college game. Ojabo has the tried and true hand toss but has flashed with techniques such as the ghost move, which you can expect to be deployed consistently when he plays.
Back in May, Ojabo said he expects to return for the season and uses current Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers as a template for his recovery. Whether Ojabo is ready by September or October, Baltimore Ravens fans should initially temper their expectations for his initial snaps. Despite this, Ojabo’s year one will be about getting him proper reps in order to facilitate his development even further, however, this doesn’t fans still can’t be excited for this truly talented player.