New York Giants: Azeez Ojulari might be the missing link on defense

new york giants, azeez ojulari

When the New York Giants traded back from 42 to 50th in the second round, nobody expected them to have a chance at Georgia stand out pass rusher Azeez Ojulari. However, the Giants managed to add a third-round pick in 2022 and land arguably the best pass rusher in this draft class.

It wasn’t more than two weeks ago that Ojulari was being mocked to the Giants at 11 overall, and seeing him drop to 50 was an absolute blessing from the football gods and one the Giants cashed in on immediately. Last year, Ojulari posted 9.5 sacks, 12.5 tackle for a loss, and four forced fumbles, showcasing his vast array of attributes, ranging from speed to finesse on the edge.

Standing at 6’2″ and 249 pounds, Ojulari has great size for an outside linebacker, giving him bend around the edge but also agility in between the tackles. He already possesses NFL strength and explosiveness, and while he might be a bit underdeveloped against the run, Azeez is exactly what the Giants needed in terms of rushing the passer to take their defense to the next level.

Last season, the Giants defense earned 40 total tackles, which surprisingly ranked 12th in the NFL. Without Oshane Ximines and Lorenzo Carter, Big Blue deployed an outside linebacker unit composed of Carter Coughlin and Jabaal Sheard as the primary starters. The fact that those two even stood a chance against NFL-level talent was mind-blowing, as defensive coordinator Patrick Graham worked his magic.

A player like Ojulari could have a significant impact on the day, and Graham can do many different things with the Georgia stand out. Having great power with his chop moves and balance to absorb blocks and maintain his frame, the 20-year-old is just scratching the surface.

Some might even call this selection for the Giants the steal of the draft, simply based on the fact that he was projected as a first-round pick and dropped to the middle of the second round. Big Blue made some phenomenal moves to help themselves down the line in terms of adding draft capital but also provided immediate support in 2022.

One of the missing links for the Giants recently has been the presence of an established pass rusher, and Ojulari can provide that if he develops correctly.

New York Yankees: Takeaways from the Yankees sweep of the Tigers

New York Yankees, Corey Kluber

The New York Yankees went into the finale of the Tigers series yesterday hoping for a sweep, and they got it with only 3 hits and a second no homer game. Corey Kluber was nothing short of outstanding. To be absolutely fair so was the Tiger’s starter Jose Urena who at one point put down 14 Yankees in a row. But someone had to lose at it was Urena. The Yankees are now 14-14 on the season.

Kluber was Cy Young brilliant in the win

The outstanding takeaway from yesterday’s game was that Corey Kluber showed why he has won two Cy Young Awards. Kluber said prior to the game that he was close to where he wanted to be. The big Kluber smile in the dugout showed that he has reached that plateau.

Kluber is the first Yankee pitcher to go eight-innings since September 19, 2020. This game was filled with firsts. Not only did the Yankees win without a home run they won with only three hits. It is the first time this season the New York Yankees have had a game that lasted less than 3 hours. The game time was 2 hours and 14 minutes as both pitchers kept runners off the base paths. For Kluber, it was the first time he had 10 strikeouts in a game since September of 2018.

Kluber is now 6th in baseball with strikeouts since 2012. In the game yesterday Kluber’s changeup was fantastic and he had command of all of his pitches. He and catcher Kyle Higashioka worked seamlessly together. Another great outcome from the day was that going 8 innings he saved the bullpen. With a day off tomorrow, the bullpen will be completely rested for the Houston Astros series at the Stadium.

By the way, Mr. Kluber congratulations on your 100th career win!

Jose Urena was fantastic for the Tigers

I usually don’t comment on opposing teams’ players or pitchers but I would be remiss if I didn’t comment on Jose Urena’s pitching yesterday. He was masterful on the mound. He pitched seven innings and other than giving up 3 hits in the second inning. From that point on he was unhittable at one point putting down 14 Yankee batters in a row. If the Tiger hitting wasn’t so weak he would have had a good chance at the win.

Aroldis Chapman still perfect

Aroldis Chapman and his new pitching arsenal has been near perfect this season (ERA 0.00) and yesterday was no different. He got the save in the game for the ninth game without allowing a run. He has pitched in 9 games with 9 innings of work, striking out 23 of 27 batters faced. He has now struck out two or more batters in each inning. In his last 18 games minus one game, he has struck out 43 batters, that 2.4 batters per inning.  These stats are since he started to regularly use his new splitter.

 

New York Rangers face the Washington Capitals as playoff elimination nears

The New York Rangers face the Washington Capitals Monday night mathematically still in the playoff hunt but realistically looking towards next season.

Rangers: 26-20-6 (58 pts)
Capitals: 32-14-5 (69 pts

With only four games reaming in the regular season, the New York Rangers welcome the Capitals to MSG Monday night. The Blueshirts will try to rebound following two horrific games against the Islanders where they were shut out in both contests.

The Numbers

The Rangers are 6-4 in their last ten games, 3-3 in their last six games, and currently have lost their last 2 consecutive games.

Power Play:

  • The Rangers were 0-for-2 (4:00) on May 1 at NY Islanders.
  • New York is tied for 13th in the NHL in power-play efficiency this season (21.1%).
  • The Rangers have recorded a power-play goal in three of the last five games (4-for-12; 33.3%).
  • The Blueshirts have tallied eight power-play goals in the last nine games (8-for-25; 32.0%) and 20 power-play goals in the last 22 games (20-for-62; 32.3%).
  • Since Mar. 22, the Rangers’ 32.3% power play efficiency is the second-best in the NHL.
  • New York ranks third in the NHL in power-play opportunities in 2020-21 (171).r

Penalty Kill:

  • The Rangers were 1-for-1 (2:00) on May 1 at NY Islanders.
  • The Blueshirts have not allowed a power-play goal in 30 of the last 45 games (111-for-130; 85.4%), including 24 of the last 38 games (89-for-107; 83.2%).
  • The Rangers have killed off 114 of their opponents’ 134 power-play opportunities over the last 46 games (85.1%) and have held their opponents to only 174 shots on goal during their opponents’ 134 power-play opportunities over the span.
  • New York ranks seventh in the NHL in penalty kill efficiency this season (83.1%).
  • The Rangers are tied for second in the NHL in shorthanded goals in 2020-21 (eight).
  • Since Jan. 30, the Rangers’ 85.4% penalty kill efficiency is tied for the second-best in the NHL.

Since Mar. 17, several Rangers are among the NHL’s leaders in various categories:

  • Mika Zibanejad’s 17 goals are tied for the most in the NHL and his 35 points are the second-most in the NHL.
  • Adam Fox’s 29 assists are the most in the NHL, his plus-18 rating is tied for the second-best in the NHL, and his 32 points are the fifth-most in the NHL.
  • Artemi Panarin’s 23 assists are the third-most in the NHL and his 34 points are tied for the third-most in the NHL.
  • Ryan Strome’s 22 assists are tied for the fourth-most in the NHL.

The Adam Fox Effect

Adam Fox tied for the NHL lead in assists in April after leading the NHL in assists in March. According to NHL Stats and Information, he was the first defenseman who either led the NHL or tied for the NHL lead in assists in two consecutive calendar months since Paul Coffey in February and March of 1984. Fox leads NHL defensemen in points (47) and assists (42), ranks third in takeaways (33) and is tied for 10th in plus/minus rating (plus-20) in 2020-21. He has recorded 47 points and a plus-20 rating in 51 games this season after recording 42 points and a plus-22 rating in 70 games last season; only one defenseman in NHL history has recorded 40 or more points and a plus-20 rating or better in each of his first two seasons (Bourque). Fox is averaging 0.82 assists per game this season, which would be the seventh-most by a Rangers defenseman in one season (min. two games played) in franchise history (Leetch – 1.00 in 1991-92; Zubov – 0.99 in 1993-94; Leetch – 0.90 in 1990-91; Leetch – 0.85 in 1995-96; Leetch – 0.83 in 1992-93; Park – 0.83 in 1972-73). According to NHL Stats and Information, only seven defensemen in NHL history have averaged at least 0.80 assists per game in a season while 23 years old or younger (min. 50 games played): Orr (3x), Coffey (3x), Leetch (2x), Zubov, Suter, Potvin, and Bourque. Fox won the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award this season.

UPCOMING MILESTONES

  • Pavel Buchnevich – 2 games away from 300 in his NHL career/with the Rangers.
  • Phillip Di Giuseppe – 2 games away from 200 in his NHL career.
  • Mika Zibanejad – 4 goals away from 200 in his NHL career.

The Rangers will conclude their home regular-season schedule on Wednesday night when they host the Washington Capitals.  The Blueshirts will then travel to the Boston Bruins for the last two games of the regular season with games on May 6 and May 8.

Stats provided by NYR PR.

Follow Frank on Twitter @RangerProud