Mon, 11 Dec 2023

Ravens Eye View: Three Young Defenders Jumping Off Film

Baltimore Ravens
21 Nov 2023, 04:25 GMT+10

Ryan Mink

The Ravens' defense has been lights out all season, but two young defenders have flown a bit under the radar.

The breakout of outside linebacker Odafe Oweh, importance (and versatility) of safety Kyle Hamilton, and lockdown abilities of cornerback Brandon Stephens were on full display in the Ravens' 34-20 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on "Thursday Night Football" at M&T Bank Stadium.

Oweh now has four sacks in five games since returning from his ankle injury and continues to generate pressure at a high rate. Per Next Gen Stats, Oweh generated a career-high seven pressures and 35.0% pressure rate, five of which came in matchups against former Raven Orlando Brown Jr.

Oweh and Brown will forever be linked by the trade that sent Brown, who requested a change of scenery so he could play left tackle, to the Kansas City Chiefs in exchange for the first-round pick the Ravens used on Oweh.

"I would like to say it doesn't [go through my mind], but obviously whenever I see him, I think about how he's the reason that I'm here. And I'm so blessed to be here," Oweh said. "Any time I see him, I just try to put my best foot forward and ball."

Oweh credited his breakout in recent weeks to "having a plan of attack and staying relentless." That's what earned him his sack against the Bengals. Oweh didn't win immediately off the snap but kept looping around to get backup quarterback Jake Browning.

"A lot of times earlier in my career, if the ball got out quick or something didn't happen my way, I would stop rushing or not stick with the plan," Oweh said. "I just keep going. Just keep on rushing."

Oweh wasn't the only Raven to beat Brown in pass protection.

The Ravens' defense is playing so well, in part, because of its ability to disguise its intentions pre- and post-snap. The versatility of inside linebackers Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen as blitzers, run stoppers, and in coverage, allows them to be anywhere on the field. The Ravens have also shown a lot of versatility with their outside linebackers and defensive linemen to rush from different spots.

But the most versatile chess piece at Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald's disposal is Hamilton. The return of Marcus Williams and luxury of having Geno Stone is allowing Hamilton to play all over the field. Macdonald often uses Hamilton to change the picture for the quarter before and after the snap.

Stephens had a tough assignment Thursday night going against Ja'Marr Chase without Marlon Humphrey in action (calf injury).

Chase didn't do much in their earlier meeting this year either (five catches, 31 yards), but he did even less this time with two catches for 12 yards (one of which being a little pitch in the backfield). The only blemish on Stephens' record for the night was a 2-yard touchdown given up to Chase late in the fourth quarter when the game was already settled.

"I knew I had a heavy workload this week and I was up for the challenge," Stephens said.

Of course, there were typical highlights from Smith and Queen, who brought another level of intensity against the rival Bengals and once again helped open up opportunities for their teammates.

Have the Ravens found another interior pass rusher in rookie outside linebacker Tavius Robinson? He got the first sack of his career with a clean win against guard Cordell Volson.

There was also plenty to like on film from the Ravens' fifth straight game scoring at least 30 points.

Baltimore continues to run the ball well in the red zone. With a pair of 3-yard scores, Gus Edwards now has nine touchdowns in the past five games, but it's a team effort with Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken keeping things fresh with different alignments.

Lamar Jackson continued his streak of making some mind-boggling off-platform throws and the Ravens got Odell Beckham Jr. going, which they'll need more of with Mark Andrews (ankle) now out.

Rookie wide receiver Zay Flowers cooked Bengals rookie cornerback D.J. Turner on the opening drive and got extra yards thanks to a high awareness block by Isaiah Likely).

Flowers also should have had his first touchdown at M&T Bank Stadium later in the game, and props to running back Keaton Mitchell for the block.

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