Odafe Oweh has no fear of fatigue during the second half of his rookie season.
Some people doubted that Oweh would make a quick transition to the NFL, but those people were mistaken. The multi-talented outside linebacker leads the Ravens in sacks (four) after getting one last week in Miami, and has produced key turnovers in victories against the Chiefs and Colts. His versatility makes him a key piece in Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale's system.
The Ravens need Oweh to continue being a large presence in their defense, yet the NFL's first 17-game season presents a challenge for rookies trying to avoid wearing down. However, hitting a "rookie wall" isn't something Oweh thinks about.
"We don't believe in a rookie wall here," Oweh said. "You see adversity and you just keep on pushing, keep on working to try and get better. We're on the second half of the season and it's time to ramp it up. You've got to raise your level of play because everyone else is, too."
Oweh is a candidate for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and one of his main competitors for that honor is Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker Micah Parsons. Oweh and Parsons are close friends and former teammates at Penn State who constantly push each other's buttons to improve. It's a friendly rivalry that benefits both players.
"When we were at Penn State, he was the only one who could push me and I was the only one that could push him," Oweh said. "We're just trying to carry that to the league. He's got me in sacks right now. I've got to ramp that up. I'm proud of him, happy for everything that's he's doing for his rookie of the year campaign. But I told him, I'm right there with him."
Head Coach John Harbaugh said he's not worried about Oweh coping with the rigors of an NFL season. A rookie wall is not one of Harbaugh's favorite subjects.
"We've always tried to ignore that, because I think it's more psychological than anything," Harbaugh said. "The season's tough, it's challenging for everybody. How it's going to play out for a 17-game season, I don't know.
"I'm very excited about (Oweh's) future and present, more interested in the present but excited about where he's going to go."
Practicing Against Lamar Jackson Could Help Ravens Prepare For Justin Fields
The Ravens will face one of the NFL's most athletic quarterbacks Sunday in Bears rookie Justin Fields, who rushed for 103 yards in Week 8 against San Francisco. Lamar Jackson is the league's most elusive quarterback, and facing him in practice every day gives the Ravens' defense an idea about the approach they should take against Fields.
"I think he's a great athlete playing quarterback," outside linebacker Justin Houston said. "He can make all the throws and he's got the wheels. Our hands are full and he's getting really comfortable back there throwing that ball. Every week he's getting better and better at throwing it. Hopefully this week he doesn't progress.
"You've got to do it as a group. It's got to be done as a team, because everybody's got to be in their rush lanes. You can't give him a vision. Any type of hole, he's going to hit it like a running back. You've got to make him sit back there in that pocket and make him beat you throwing the ball."
Fields seems to improve each week, and while the Bears (3-6) have struggled, he's coming off a career-high 291-yard passing performance in Chicago's 29-27 loss to the Steelers prior to their bye week. Oweh is looking forward to renewing his rivalry against Fields, a former Big Ten adversary who played at Ohio State.
"He has a superhero mentality, where he wants to put the team on his back," Oweh said. "He's a good quarterback. I have a great relationship with Justin. I know it's going to be a battle. He's up-and-coming too, so he has stuff to prove. That's dangerous."
Harbaugh Doesn't Rule Out Le'Veon Bell Returning
The Ravens released veteran running back Le'Veon Bell on Tuesday, but Harbaugh left the door open for a possible return.
Bell made a good impression on teammates and coaches and he knows Baltimore's offensive system. If a roster spot opened up down the road, Bell could be someone the Ravens consider.
"Le'Veon was doing a great job, we had a great conversation," Harbaugh said. "Being around him is a joy every single day, he's really a great guy. And he helped us. He can still play. We'll just see where we're at going forward."
Harbaugh was asked directly if a scenario could arise where Bell might return.
"We'd be open to that," Harbaugh said. "But he may have other opportunities to play other places, too."
Harbaugh Expects Bears to Blitz More Than Usual After Watching Miami's Success
The Bears don't usually blitz as often as many NFL teams, relying on Robert Quinn (6.5 sacks) and Khalil Mack (six sacks) to create pressure without bringing extra pass rushers. However, Chicago's strategy may change after watching the Dolphins have so much success blitzing Jackson last week.
"In terms of blitzing, scheming, we certainly have to be prepared for it," Harbaugh said. "I would expect them to blitz based on what they saw on Thursday. We've preparing for that."
Regardless of how often the Bears blitz, Baltimore's offensive line will be challenged to keep Chicago's pass rush away from Jackson. Bears linebacker Roquan Smith also has three sacks, and their front seven is capable of taking over games.
"This is a very physical front seven," Harbaugh said. "It's going to be a very physical football game, because that's how they play."