One of the New York Giants’ most exciting young players is second-year pass rusher Azeez Ojulari. The former Georgia Bulldog set the Giants’ official rookie sacks record, tallying 8.0 in 2021. He also picked up 49 combined tackles, eight tackles for loss, and 13 quarterback hits over 17 games.
Surprisingly, Ojulari dropped to 50th overall in the 2021 NFL Draft due to concerns regarding a previous knee surgery. Luckily, he dropped right into the Giants’ lap after trading back several spots, adding more draft capital.
Fast forward one year later, and the Giants have an exciting young duo in the trenches composed of Ojulari and Kayvon Thibodeaux.
Thibodeaux is coming over from Oregon, presenting arguably the best pass rusher in this year’s entire draft class. With elite speed off the line of scrimmage and a tantalizing speed-power combo, pairing him with Ojulari could provide Big Blue with one of the league’s most dynamic young duos at OLB.
However, some believe that Ojulari could have a breakout campaign in 2022, especially after adding 10 pounds of muscle mass this off-season to improve his power and ability to seal the edge in the run game.
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Per PFF, Ojulari could be in line for a “breakout” campaign:
The Giants have been slowly building up their pass-rush unit the past few seasons, including using a first-rounder on Oregon edge defender Kayvon Thibodeaux in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Last season, New York drafted Ojulari in the second round, and he didn’t disappoint, putting up a 17.8% pass-rush win percentage and 28 total pressures on true pass sets. While his overall grade underwhelmed (58.3), he had three 80.0-plus game grades in 2021. Now accompanied by Thibodeaux on the opposite side, Ojulari can use his athleticism and bend on second-tier linemen, opening the door for a breakthrough Year 2.
According to PFF, one of Ojulari’s worst factors was his run defense. He had a few individual stand-out performances but otherwise missed 10.9% of his tackles and lacked the functional strength to hold down the edge. However, he looks mesmerizingly bigger and should be able to hold his own against offensive tackles as a sophomore in the NFL.
If he can replicate his sack numbers from last year, improve his run defense and curate more pressure, he could enter the conversation as one of the league’s best up-and-coming pass rushers. However, it is all hearsay until he puts it on the football field.
New defensive coordinator Wink Martindale loves to utilize an aggressive blitz package, which should open up the defense for Ojulari and allow him to take advantage of more 1v1 opportunities.