MINNEAPOLIS — Nominated for the NFL's Rookie of the Week award last week, Browns linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah has already impressed early in his NFL career, and on Sunday -- as the defense shined bright again -- he made it clear that he's the real deal.
When the Browns drafted Greg Newsome II in the first round, it seemed almost inevitable that the rover out of Notre Dame would be off the board before the Browns could grab him. But things fell their way and Owusu-Koramoah, who was a projected first-round pick by most, fell into the second round—and Cleveland scooped him up.
Owusu-Koramoah's potential heading into the NFL was exciting. His ability to execute hard hits and forceful tackles paired with his speed, agility and athleticism seemed like just what defensive coordinator Joe Woods needed to help build up the defensive scheme that he didn't have the talent to trot on the field last season (or health, for that matter).
After returning from the COVID-19 list the second week of training camp, Owusu-Koramoah showed he hadn't missed a step, making big plays at practice sessions and through the preseason.
But still, it remained to be seen how the versatile defender would perform in regular-season game action. Now, four weeks into the regular season, while it's early, it feels safe to say that Owusu-Koramoah is delivering what the front office and fans had hoped.
Ramping up his impact
Last week against the Bears, Owusu-Koramoah got the start at strong-side linebacker and put up four tackles, a half-sack and two passes defended—showing off his skill of changing direction on the fly and making plays on the ball.
"He knows he can be a force rushing the passer. He was there with me, and he made plays in the pass game dropping out in coverage and pushing pressure on the quarterback. I think we all did, and that is how it is supposed to look, especially with the guys we have up front and the guys we brought in," said Browns defensive end Myles Garrett after the win over the Bears.
Linebackers coach Jason Tarver said that in the Week 3 outing, Owusu-Koramoah had such a great game due to making the right calls and starting the plays exactly how they designed them for him.
"What Jeremiah did well was stay in his process and start the game and start the plays correctly, using what we do to start plays, so what I mean is his patience in the beginning of the play and then how he was able to fit and move and he got more in the groove than he has before so that was really cool to see," Tarver said. "When he stays in his process, when we all stay in our process, that's when we can be our best."
Tarver said that by starting correctly, Owusu-Koramoah has been able to be in a spot where he can feel the game out for himself and make those quick decisions on each down, allowing him to showcase his play-making ability while providing impressive coverage against the run and the pass.
That impact was had playing just over 50% of the defensive snaps, meaning as he continues developing his skills and proving his abilities on the field, Owusu-Koramoah's impact may just get even greater as the weeks go on.
"There are multiple packages we can create for him, but there is only so much he can handle because when you get on the field, you have a certain number of reps. If you are giving him a lot of stuff to do, how many times can you rep it for him to be comfortable doing it? That is with our defense in general," said defensive coordinator Joe Woods on Thursday.
With this Sunday's outing against the Vikings, it seems he's well on his way to finding himself even more involved in the game.
Another Sunday showcase
Adding to the argument that Owusu-Koramoah's impact isn't just beginner's luck, the linebacker had another big game against the Vikings.
Owusu-Koramoah solidified his ability to be a versatile defender on the first play of the game, holding Vikings star running back Dalvin Cook to a single yard, flying around the edge and wrapping himself around Cook for the tackle.
His impact was felt throughout the game when he was on the field and he had a performance that showcased his closing speed and his aptness for changing direction on a dime while also making seven tackles, which as he's said before, is his favorite thing to do.
Heading into his rookie debut, some critics were skeptical of Owusu-Koramoah's ability to play linebacker due to his 6'2", 215 pound stature. But even before taking the field for an NFL game, Owusu-Koramoah was confident in his ability and explained why his size wasn't going to be an issue.
"It is an advantage in terms of how the league is evolving in terms of a more pass-based league and in terms of probably about 85% nickel and third-down defense. I think it's an advantage because the offense, the way it is running in terms of more spread. I think it's an advantage because of how the league is moving forward and just my skill set in terms of getting to Point A to Point B in terms of slipping blocks and pressing blocks. I think that is something I'll be looking forward to,” Owusu-Koramoah said back in May.
Having a big game against a well-rounded offense like the Vikings that has been firing on all cylinders this season, the game Owusu-Koramoah had Sunday will only add confidence.
Part of a dominating defense
Owusu-Koramoah's impact helps the rest of the defense perform.
For the second week in a row, the defense won the game -- this week more so than last, even with the rough opening drive.
In addition to last week’s 26-6 win over the Bears, the Browns have held their opponent to single-digit points in consecutive games for the first time since 1995. They have allowed just 20 total points over the last 10 quarters. The Browns have recorded 14 total sacks this season, second in the NFL as of the 1 p.m. games on Sunday.
The defense clicked -- really clicked -- last week against the Bears, with their nine total sacks, and their dominance continued into Sunday's win over the Vikings.
Garrett reminded fans he's a force while Jadeveon Clowney proved he's still a quarterback nightmare. Grant Delpit and Greedy Williams have made big debuts after returning from injury. The Maliks (Jackson and McDowell) have been commanding on the interior while the secondary is a night and day difference from last season.
Owusu-Korarmoah has been there with them, ready when they send him out on the field, helping the gears run smooth as they chug along through the next 13 regular season games with the hopes of even more postseason match-ups. He's part of what could continue to be an elite defense—and you know what they say about defense.
It wins championships.
We're a long way from that, but four weeks in, it's so far so good.
Camryn Justice is a digital content producer at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Twitter @camijustice.
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