Victor Ochi hadn’t seen the field very often for the Baltimore Ravens entering their preseason finale, so it was safe to assume that he needed to have a big game on Thursday night to keep his hopes for a roster spot alive.
The edge rusher from Long Island did just that, and in the process may have shown everyone that he deserves to play on Sundays — whether it’s in Baltimore or elsewhere.
Ochi, a Valley Stream native and Stony Brook alum, had his second sack in as many games and forced a fumble while playing a healthy amount of snaps in the Ravens’ 23-14 preseason win over the Saints in New Orleans.
Up until Thursday night, Ochi had only seen limited playing time midway or late in the fourth quarter in the Ravens’ first three preseason games, fueling speculation that the Ravens were trying to hide him in an attempt to stash him on the practice squad.
It may have gotten a lot harder for the Ravens to do that after Thursday. The Ravens, resting all of their first-stringers, gave Ochi an extended look, rotating the undrafted rookie into the game all night long in various situations.
Ochi ran down Saints wideout Tommylee Lewis on a jet sweep and made a nice open-field tackle on the opening play of the third quarter, then beat left tackle Tony Hills on an inside move and got a strip-sack of backup quarterback Garrett Grayson with 2:09 left in the third quarter. He finished the game with three tackles, a sack and a forced fumble, giving him five tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble on the preseason.
Now all Ochi can do is wait. The Ravens have to trim their roster from 75 to their final 53 by Saturday at 4 p.m. Ochi is one of several players on the roster bubble, especially given the Ravens’ depth at edge rusher — he spent most of the preseason behind Terrell Suggs, Za’Darius Smith and fellow rookie Matt Judon on the depth chart. The Ravens have had at least one undrafted rookie on their Week 1 roster in each of the last 12 seasons.
If the Ravens do cut Ochi, they could try to sign him to the practice squad beginning Sunday at noon. But between Saturday and Sunday, another team could put in a waiver claim, so Ochi’s big night wasn’t just a showcase for the Ravens. It also was one for the other 31 NFL teams who saw his preseason film.
Ochi knew entering the preseason that he would have to fight to make the Ravens’ roster, especially given his status as an undrafted free agent.
“If success came that easy, then everybody would be successful,” he told Newsday during training camp last month. “I know what it takes, I know the work that I’ve got to put in. I know I’ve got to work a little bit more harder, and that’s always been my approach to everything.”
No matter what the future holds, Ochi felt good about how he handled his first NFL preseason.
“I gave my all on the field every time, and at least I can walk off and say I gave 100 percent,” Ochi told Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun after Thursday night’s game. “If I was to second guess myself, I’d be miserable. At least I could say I gave 110 percent and I’m proud of myself. I feel I’m so much better as a player than I was. I’m starting to understand the game more. I can’t complain. I feel like my window is still open. I could get so much better.”