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Late for Work 8/7: High Expectations for Ravens' Young Pass Rushers With Justin Houston Gone

OLB Odafe Oweh
OLB Odafe Oweh

High Expectations for Ravens' Young Pass Rushers

Justin Houston agreed to a one-year deal with the Carolina Panthers Sunday evening, ending any reunion possibility with the Ravens. While many hoped to see the 2022 Ravens sack leader back on the roster, pundits are now turning to the young pass rushers Odafe Oweh and David Ojabo to make a splash in 2023.

Bleacher Report’s David Kenyon has Oweh penned for a breakout season.

"2023 may be Odafe Oweh's time to shine," Kenyon wrote. "Oweh, who collected eight sacks and 43 pressures during his first two years, is likely to command a massive snap share. Considering he already played about 60 percent of snaps in 2021 and 2022 combined, Oweh presumably is ready for a heavy workload. Opportunity does not guarantee production, but Oweh should have a constant presence this season."

Meanwhile, CBS Sports’ Josh Edwards points to Ojabo as a player to watch this preseason and beyond.

"After playing in just two games as a rookie, Ojabo is expected to be cut loose this season," Edwards wrote. "The Ravens need someone to step up in that arena, and Ojabo has the skillset to do it."

Between the two young rushers there's an abundance of potential. Now, they're hoping under Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald,[comma] and with the help of outside linebackers coach Chuck Smith, it can be transformed into production.

Maurice Jones-Drew Names Lamar Jackson the NFL's No. 5 QB

Last week in LFW, we saw those in the NFL rank Jackson a Tier 2 quarterback and No. 7 overall. But former NFL running back and current analyst Maurice Jones-Drew doesn't appear to agree. To him, Jackson is No. 5, and he wanted to place Jackson higher.

"Fresh off signing a new contract, Lamar Jackson looks poised for a major bounce-back season; a lot of offseason moves have played in his favor," Jones-Drew wrote. "With Todd Monken (who was the wide receivers coach in Jacksonville from 2007 to 2010, when I was on the team) as Baltimore's new offensive coordinator and the pass-catching talent having been boosted around Jackson, the sky's the limit for the 2019 NFL MVP -- if he can stay healthy."

Health has been the consistent knock on Jackson over the offseason by numerous outlets. PFF’s Sam Monson named "staying healthy," otherwise he's unstoppable.

"The combination of passing ability and elite rushing production makes somebody like Jackson impossible to stop when they are on their game, but it also inevitably exposes him to some hits that prototypical pocket passers will never endure and potentially limits how long he can play at that level because of it."

Both times Jackson suffered injury that sidelined him long-term were as a passer being tackled in the backfield, not as a runner.

CBS Sports’ Cody Benjamin said much of the same.

"He's got lots to prove in terms of durability and passing consistency. But the sheer electricity of Jackson's legs have him No. 5 all-time in QB rushing at just 26, with Michael Vick's top spot very much within reach," Benjamin wrote. "He's also 45-16 as a starter, never once guiding a losing record while under center. If he can stay on the field and get over the hump, the talent is there to shatter records."

The other reason Jones-Drew had him at No. 5 and below Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts was due to playoff production.

"Jackson missed 10 regular-season games over the past two seasons, plus last season's wild-card loss to the Bengals," Jones-Drew wrote. "When he's on, he's nearly untouchable, but Jackson's recent injury track record and underwhelming postseason resume (1-3 so far) put him at No. 5 here."

NBC Sports' Peter King Talks With Odell Beckham Jr.

Along his training camp tour, NBC Sports’ Peter King made a stop in Owings Mills to check out the Ravens. During his time, he spoke with wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Here are some of the highlights.

On if in his last stop he could be both a playmaker and leader:

"In my career, even when I was the young guy, I was always looked [at] as an older guy because of what I accomplished early in my career," Beckham said. "I feel that part of the reason why I was brought here was to be that person for those younger guys. Try to show them the good and bad, because, as you know, I've already been through a lot of the bad. I believe I have the blueprint for what to do and what not to do, and I just try and share that with them."

On being a mentor for rookie Zay Flowers:

"You know that question people are always asking—what would you tell your 21-year-old self? When I think of the question, my journey isn't Zay's. You have to tell your 21-year-old self you're gonna go through your own journey. There's no manual for what you're gonna go through. You're gonna have a lot of f---ups. You're gonna learn from them. You don't wanna make the big mistake, but if you do, you usually grow from it and get stronger."

If Beckham could change one or two things about his career, or life:

"If I could go back," Beckham said, "would I like to have a career where the first three years of my career could have been repeated? Yeah, of course. I'd be sitting here, 30 years old, with 100 touchdowns and 14,000 yards. I wish I could've never been injured, never shattered my ankle or came back too early from a high ankle sprain. But those are things I now have to live with. I can't live in regret for the rest of my life."

On how much he still wants to play:

"I feel like I'm walking that fine line of gratitude and happy to be healthy and playing football … but also I still wanna be great. Like, bad. I dropped a pass the other day and I was pissed about it. Really pissed. If I thought I didn't care about this game, that dropped showed me no, I care. I absolutely care the same way I always have."

Justin Tucker Named Ravens' Most Likely Future Hall of Famer

With the old guard no longer on the roster and some recent free agents signing elsewhere, those worthy of a gold jacket once they've hung up the purple and black cleats are a bit slim compared to years past. But that doesn't mean the Ravens are without a worthy member to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame when all is said and done, and CBS Sports’ Bryan DeArdo has kicker Justin Tucker as inching ever closer to bronze bust immortality.

"Lamar Jackson, a former league MVP, is also putting together a career that may one day be worthy of enshrinement. But this spot currently belongs to Tucker, a five-time first-team All-Pro who is only getting better with age," DeArdo wrote. "In 2021, Tucker booted a 66-yard field goal while making a league-high 94.6% of his FG attempts."

Tucker's dominance as a kicker has yet to be matched—if it ever will be. He's the only player in NFL history above 90% field goal accuracy, at 90.524%. For reference, the next closest, Atlanta Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo, is 1.4-percent lower on the all-time accuracy list.

There's more to be done and getting into the Hall of Fame is quite challenging as a specialist, but Tucker is well on his way to earning the votes.

Quick Hits

  • CBS Sports’ Bryan DeArdo named former Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. one of the 20 greatest NFL players not in the Hall of Fame, saying, "… Smith overcame a significant injury in 2004 to win Comeback Player of the Year after leading the NFL in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches in 2005. Smith tallied eight 1,000-yard seasons and is one of 14 players with at least 1,000 career receptions. He's currently eighth all-time with 14,731 career receiving yards."

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