Tyus Bowser smelled a mismatch Thursday night and took advantage.
As he closed in on Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Josh McCown, the only person who could stop Bowser from getting a sack was running back Corey Clement. Bowser wasn't having that. He bullied his way past Clement and tackled McCown for a 3-yard loss.
After the game, Bowser had a message for any running back who might attempt to block him this season.
"He came to block me – that definitely was a mistake," Bowser said. "Being a pass rusher, you shouldn't have no running back being able to block you. Simple as that."
Spoken like a player whose confidence is growing. After two years of frustration, unable to earn playing time as often as he hoped, Bowser has shown signs of emerging as a consistent pass rusher in his third season with the Ravens.
It's not just his 1 ½ sacks during the three preseason games. Bowser has also been a force in recent practices, whether competing against his own teammates or in the two joint practices with the Eagles.
Bowser tied for the team lead in tackles Thursday night with four, including two tackles for loss. When Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh turns on tape of recent practices and games, it doesn't take long for Bowser to stand out.
"Tyus has had a good camp," Harbaugh said. "He's been an explosive pass-rusher pretty much the whole camp. He should be commended for that."
It appears Bowser has played himself off the roster bubble and into more playing time once the regular season begins. Matthew Judon and Pernell McPhee are the two starting outside linebackers on the depth chart, but with the departures of Terrell Suggs and Za'Darius Smith in free agency, the Raven need others to step up as well.
As a second-round pick from Houston in 2017, Bowser expected to earn regular playing time far sooner than this. But after getting three sacks as a rookie in 2017, Bowser produced just ½ sack in 2018 and languished behind Suggs, Smith and Judon on the depth chart.
This season is Bowser's best opportunity with the Ravens, but there is also pressure on him to outperform Tim Williams, Shane Ray, and others vying for roster spots at outside linebacker. Instead of focusing on the competition, Bowser has focused on becoming better.
"Trying to go out there and make plays," Bowser said. "Showing the coaches that I can go out there and play. Focusing on me. There's always going to be competition each year. All you can do is control what you can control. That's what I've been doing. Staying in the playbook, going out there practicing hard. Fixing whatever mistakes I've made.
"I've been through a lot. I always think back to the tough times, putting my name out there to be in this position. When you talk about make-or-break man, all you can do is do what you do. I'm a real believer in Christ and I just let him handle the rest. Whatever happens, happens, but I'm going to control me and let him do the rest."
During his first two seasons, Bowser said he learned from veteran teammates like Suggs, Eric Weddle and Brandon Carr about what it takes to have a long NFL career. Now Bowser feels ready to realize his potential and build on his strong play over the past three weeks.
"Those last two years were definitely beneficial for me, despite not playing as much as I would like," Bowser said. "I definitely took advantage of what I could from those vets to be in this position."
Check out the best pictures from Thursday night's third preseason game.