BEREA — Slowly and steadily, rookie linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah has gotten more playing time.
After being on the field for 38 percent and 30 percent of the defensive snaps the first two games, he jumped to 51 percent and 52 percent the last two weeks. The increase included time in the base defense Sunday in the 14-7 win over the Vikings in addition to his normal role in the nickel package.
Owusu-Koramoah, a second-round pick out of Notre Dame, has made the most of his snaps. He has 17 tackles, a tackle for loss, three passes defensed and a half-sack.
“That is the key there — it is expanding because he is earning that role,” coach Kevin Stefanski said Wednesday. “He is competing. The more you show our coaches what you can do, the more that we are going to ask you to do. His role will continue to grow.”
Defensive coordinator Joe Woods has been clear that he doesn’t want to overload and overwhelm Owusu-Koramoah as a rookie. Woods wants him to feel comfortable and play fast before adding to his menu.
“I appreciate it a lot,” Owusu-Koramoah said. “As a rookie, you do have a lot on your plate. There’s a lot of things off the field, on the field and things you have to handle. I really do appreciate him going at my pace and me going at his pace. It’s a team.”
The measured approach requires a level of patience from coaches and player given his strong start. Pro Football Focus ranks him second to Buffalo’s Matt Milano among linebackers with an 89.8 grade after a stint at the top.
“I appreciate it. It means a lot,” Owusu-Koramoah said. “But necessarily not too much harping on that just because it kind of puts you in a different world to what you know. As you see yourself as No. 1, the only way to go is downward. Just harping to stay in the world that I’m in.”
He’s determined to stay humble and driven.
“I still have things to work on and still looking for things to correct — smaller details and things,” he said. “Am I playing well? Not necessarily in my eyes. I could do better.”
Owusu-Koramoah noted the “processing” is harder in the NFL because offenses use a larger variety of formations and more complex schemes than in college. The more he plays, the more comfortable he gets.
“Hopefully as time goes on, I become more of a bigger role,” he said.