When Odafe Oweh watched videotape of himself last year, he saw numerous occasions when a potential sack barely slipped away.
"It was like, 'Damn,'" said Oweh, who had three sacks and 11 quarterback hits last season, a decline from five sacks and 15 quarterback hits as a rookie.
"A lot of times I was close, but it lets me know that when it does click and when everything goes how I want it to, I'm going to soar. You've got to look at it that way, not the negative way. So, that's how I view it."
Oweh's teammates and coaches view it the same way. They know how athletic and studious the third-year outside linebacker is, how hard Oweh works and his desire to be great. While his sack number went down last season, Oweh had a career-high 31 tackles and played more defensive snaps (634) for Baltimore than any member of the front seven except Patrick Queen (1,036) and Justin Madubuike (655)
There's a high ceiling for Oweh, who didn't play football until his junior year of high school. He developed rapidly to become a first-round draft pick in 2021 (31st pick overall) and he is determined to see his potential transform into more consistent production.
Oweh won't try to wipe the 2022 season from his memory. Instead, he'll use last season to fuel him.
"No, I never forget. I don't forget," Oweh said. "I use it as kind of motivation. I didn't really take a lot of offseason. I went straight to the gym, just trying to get strong, because I know there's no real offseason. As a competitor, you remember things that you've got to work on; you remember the things you missed on, so you can bounce back for the next year."
Oweh could be a critical component of a Ravens' pass rush rotation that is still taking shape. Outside linebacker Justin Houston remains unsigned after leading the Ravens in sacks (9.5) last season, and the Ravens lost veteran defensive lineman Calais Campbell (5.5) to the Atlanta Falcons in free agency.
Oweh, David Ojabo and Tyus Bowser will be counted on to put pressure on the quarterback even if Houston returns, and Oweh is accepting that challenge. He showed the ability to generate pressure whether lining up inside or outside last season, and Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald likes the direction Oweh is trending, even though he knows Oweh wanted more sacks.
"I'm sure any time you're not getting the production that you want or expect and your personal goals, that's probably a source of frustration," Macdonald said. "But I look back at last year… we're putting together the teach tapes and things, and [Outside Linebackers Coach] Chuck [Smith] is watching them, and we're saying, 'Hey, man, this guy is doing a lot of good stuff for us.'
"Does that show up on the stats sheet? It may not. But the guy rushed outside; he rushed inside. I thought he really caught his stride at the end of the year. And the sacks, I just really believe they'll come."
Oweh is gifted athletically but strives to be fundamentally sound in his quest to become more consistent. Breaking down tape from last year, he has pinpointed areas where he wants to improve.
"A lot of times I would get off the block, but I was kind of off balance, so when I got to the QB, I wasn't taking a straight-line shot," Oweh said. "Then also up-field shoulder; there were a lot of times where I missed because of the up-field shoulder, too. [It's] little things like that.
"There were times when I was there, but my concentration maybe wasn't there, and I could have gotten it [the sack]. There are guys that were in the situation that still made those plays. So, it's not an excuse, but I know where I'm at now, and I know what I can do now."
Patrick Queen had a career-high 117 tackles last season in his third year. Defensive tackle Justin Madubuike also had a career year last season (42 tackles, 5.5 sacks, nine quarterback hits), also in his third year.
Oweh believes Year 3 could be the charm for him as well, and he's putting in the work this offseason to lay the foundation.
"I feel like Year 3, it's a year where you had a good year the first year, second year, guys know who you are…but Year 3, 'Alright, you know some of my moves but now I've got more moves for you,'" [space] Oweh said. "Year 3 is a year where you probably tie it all in together."