Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah met the expectations the Browns had for him Sunday against the kind of quarterback they believed he could help them stop.
Owusu-Koramoah, the Browns' 2021 second-round pick at linebacker, has the rare blend of speed and instincts that bodes well against stopping a dual-threat quarterback like Ravens QB Lamar Jackson, who threw four interceptions and had to evade plenty of pressure from the Browns defense Sunday night at M&T Bank Stadium.
Jackson's performance was one of the worst of his career — his 46.5 passer rating was his lowest as a starting quarterback, and he had only thrown more than two interceptions in a game just once in four seasons — but it still wasn't enough to stop the Ravens. The Browns lost 16-10, but the defense largely did its job in giving Cleveland a chance.
The play of Owusu-Koramoah, who registered a season-high 12 tackles and added a half-sack, was one major reason why.
"I think you see his length and speed show up on the field," coach Kevin Stefanski said, "which is so important when you're going up against an offensive attack like the Ravens."
Check out the best photos from the Browns game against the Ravens yesterday by the Browns photo team
Owusu-Koramoah certainly appeared to match the speed of Jackson and any of the other Ravens' speedsters, which is precisely why the Browns placed so much value on him back in April. Don't forget: The Browns said at the time that they considered drafting him in the first round. They took CB Greg Newsome II instead, and then they traded up seven spots in the second round when Owusu-Koramoah was still on the board.
That's because they place a premium on speed in their linebackers room. It's a smart way to look at the position with shifty quarterbacks like Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen and others are in the same conference, and so far, the results from Owusu-Koramoah have been promising in stopping QBs of that caliber.
Sunday was the best example yet against the fastest quarterback in the league. Six of Owusu-Koramoh's tackles were against Jackson, and Jackson's biggest gain against him as a tackler was just four yards. Four of Owusu-Koramoah's tackles limited Jackson to one yard or less.
"(Jackson) is truly a competitor," Owusu-Koramoah said. "He never gives up, even on simple plays. He's never going to quit, even if we're in front of his face."
But Owusu-Koramoah largely got the job done when he was the next line of defense, and it's even more impressive considering how he played through an ankle injury suffered last week against Detroit. Owusu-Koramoah was a full participant in each day of practice but admitted in his interview Monday he felt some pain when pushing off the ankle.
Owusu-Koramoah has made a habit since training camp of coming back even better after injuries have sidelined him. He's proven he knows how to find ways to stay sharp when he can't be on the field, and he's solidified his toughness and reliability even when he's not 100 percent.
"It's football and it's the NFL, so there's a lot of games where you have to fight through certain things that may still be bothering you in the game," he said. "It felt good in some moments, and in some other moments, I just had to fight through."
Owusu-Koramoah can take pride in his performance, but he cautioned against saying his game should shine only against speedy quarterbacks — he wants to be good against everyone.
So far, he has. He's third on the Browns with 49 tackles despite missing three games, and he's certainly appeared to grow in all facets of the game as the season has progressed. With five games left, he's looking to continue making statements, and after another strong performance Sunday, it's a safe bet to believe he will.
"I should be built for every quarterback," he said. "It's not just a sole quarterback I'm here for and built for, but I can compete against them all."