Ravens Linebacker Patrick 'Peanut' Onwuasor Is Cracking His Opponents


Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown was being himself, scampering laterally, dancing around tacklers looking to break a big play.

That is, until he met Patrick Onwuasor. The man nicknamed "Peanut" cracked Brown, sending a roar through M&T Bank Stadium.

"I caught him trying to cut back and I just tried to lay him out," Onwuasor said.

Onwuasor is still learning the position. He played wide receiver in high school, then safety in college at Arizona and Portland State. Now he's an inside linebacker with the Ravens.

Despite being in just his second year of playing the position, Onwuasor is starting to emerge as a playmaker next to Pro Bowl inside linebacker C.J. Mosley.

Onwuasor received the Ravens defense's second-highest grade from Pro Football Focus after Sunday's loss to the Steelers. He was credited with just three tackles, but set up his teammates to make other plays. In London, he made seven tackles in his first career start.

"Every rep he takes he get better and better," safety Eric Weddle said. "The good thing about Peanut is, when in doubt, he's just going to hit somebody. He could be dead wrong, but he's going to hit someone. You love that about him."

Onwuasor said his youth basketball coach told him he was too aggressive to play the sport and should move on to football. Since then, he's put that physicality on full display.

When Onwuasor joined the Ravens as an undrafted rookie last year, he opened eyes (and ruffled some feathers) with a few big hits during practices.

It's the other parts of playing the position that Onwuasor is still adjusting to. Onwuasor has Weddle behind him and Mosley next to him helping to get him aligned and alerting him to different things the offense may throw his way.

It's a much different job than when he played safety. Onwuasor was more of a ball hawking, back end defensive back. He had nine interceptions as a senior.

"When I played safety, I would read certain routes and go get the ball," Onwuasor said. "Now me playing linebacker, I'm not seeing that much. I just go tackle everything I see."

The natural feel for the position is coming, however. Mosley said that's been the biggest difference he's seen in Onwuasor from Year 1 to Year 2.

"I see him being more instinctive," Mosley said. "The reads are a little different when you're 20 yards away from the line of scrimmage. I think that's the biggest difference is keying things."

The Ravens had a void at inside linebacker after the sudden retirement of Zachary Orr because of a newly-discovered congenital spinal cord issue. Onwuasor started in place of Orr during last year's Week 17 finale in Cincinnati, and when Orr got the bad news, he told Onwuasor he was the next man up.

"When I found out Zach wasn't coming back, I was kind of sad," he said. "I felt like I needed that role model still. I wanted to develop as a player and I wanted him to be here to learn more things from him."

Onwuasor has split the job with Kamalei Correa, but Onwuasor has seen a lion's share of the snaps the past two games. He had 33 snaps to 28 for Correa last week. Onwuasor said he still considers himself to be a special teams guy first and foremost, and whatever comes on defense is a bonus.

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