Jayson Oweh believes his potential outweighs 2020 production

Penn State defensive end Jayson Oweh (28) rushes against Ohio State in State College, Pa., on Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)
Penn State defensive end Jayson Oweh (28) rushes against Ohio State in State College, Pa., on Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Jayson Oweh is quite the enigma when it comes to his prospects as an NFL edge rusher.

Oweh possesses every athletic trait a team could ask for. He ran a 4.36-second 40-yard dash at Penn State’s Pro Day, showing the speed that impresses NFL scouts. He posted a vertical jump of 39.5 inches and a broad jump of 134 inches. He performed these feats within his frame of 6-foot-3 and 246 pounds, with 31¼-inch arms and 11-inch hands.

These are the types of measurables that make NFL personnel drool.

Yet when you look at Oweh’s stat sheet from the 2020 season, a certain number pops out in an ever-important category.

Zero sacks.

Coaches and players often publicly say that sacks don’t matter that much, that good defense is more about affecting the quarterback and applying pressure. In the end, teams pay a premium to edge rushers who consistently sack the quarterback.

Oweh is aware his game has some doubts after he failed to record a sack this past season. But with his recent Pro Day, combined with his overall production over the past three seasons at Penn State, Oweh believes he’s done plenty to prove he can compile sacks in the NFL.

“As far as the zero sacks thing, it’s obviously there,” Oweh said. “But if you really are a savant of the game and really understand what is going on in the game, and you watch film, you don’t just look at the box score. You understand that’s not even who I am, that’s not even the type of player I am. I’d say (against) Indiana, I could have had five sacks that game. It was just a split second off. I feel like even if I did have five, six sacks, people still would come up with things to say.

“My best football is ahead of me. This is probably the best thing that could have happened to me because I’m using that as motivation. People have said that I was a pass-rush specialist the year before that, and now they say I can only play the run. So I use all this stuff as motivation, and it’s helping me become a more complete football player.”

Oweh’s last sack came on the final play of the 2019 Cotton Bowl against Memphis, with Penn State cementing a 53-39 win. On the play, Oweh beat his man off the snap and was able to bring down quarterback Brady White as he stepped into the pocket.

Since the 2020 season ended, Oweh continued his training with Penn State teammate Micah Parsons, a first-round prospect who many expect to go in the top 15 of the draft. The two continued the ongoing competition they had at practice, trying to one-up each other when it came to testing drills.

Oweh feels the back and forth the two shared helped prepare him for his impressive Pro Day.

“I feel like there should have been a documentary on how we worked in Santa Ana, California,” Oweh said. “It was so intense. Every single day, every single session it was just (personal record, personal record, personal record). ‘Oh, look what I got, look what I got. OK, I’m going to beat you.’ ... Whoever goes first, the second person is going to have a better time because they have to take it up a notch.”

Parsons pointed out that Oweh has been playing organized football only since his junior year of high school. Therefore, as a raw prospect, Oweh is still learning the ins and outs of the game, which could make him intriguing to teams who believe they can mold him into a more fundamental player. Parsons, who opted out of the 2020 season, said Oweh returned the favor by also helping get the best out of him during those training sessions.

“Me and Jayson have been competing since freshman year, the day we both walked in,” Parsons said. “The moment I saw he was a freak, I knew I could test him mentally. And I knew he was new to football. So I knew what I could bring out of him.”

Even without a sack in 2020, NFL Media draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah has Oweh pegged to the Baltimore Ravens at the 27th overall selection in his most recent mock draft. Jeremiah’s reason is that while Oweh has lacked production he “has not lacked disruption.” With the Falcons sitting eight picks later at 35th overall, perhaps Oweh becomes a prospect to discuss if he falls to that range.

For some teams, the upside with Oweh could outweigh the goose egg sitting in this past season’s sack column. Even so, Oweh said he improved his overall game throughout the 2020 season, regardless of what his critics may say.

“2020, it’s weird because maybe the production wasn’t there,” Oweh said. “But in terms of skill-wise, I was way better this past year. It helped me to understand what I have to really hone on. I focused on trying to add an extra move. Now I can really hone in on speed to power, hone in on timing the hands better, hone in on confronting the tackle instead of running around him. That’s only going to make my game better.

“I’m really happy. It was bittersweet that I had zero sacks. But I just know it’s going to be crazy once I know what to get to work on.”

In Other News