New York Giants: How Azeez Ojulari could make Leonard Williams even better in 2021

New York Giants, Leonard Williams

The New York Giants were looking to bolster their pass rush this upcoming season, which was attested by their moves to draft Elerson Smith and Azeez Ojulari. They also allocated free agency funds toward the outside linebacker unit, adding Ryan Anderson and Ifeadi Odenigbo.

Last season, the Giants collected 40 sacks, good for 12th in the NFL, despite a serious lack of talent at OLB. They deployed seventh-round pick Carter Coughlin and practice squad player Jabaal Sheard as their primary pass rushers at the position in the 3-4 scheme. However, they tried to be as multiple as possible to curate pass rush from other positions, including the interior and secondary.

Giants’ DC Patrick Graham stated in 2020 that while they want to be multiple, perfecting the fundamentals is a priority:

“Even with trying to be multiple, the idea is to be multiple in a limited amount of scheme so that we’re doing all the fundamentals that we are looking for on defense,” Graham said. “In terms of playing with our hands, playing with good pad level, setting the edge, defending the deep part of the field and tackling, that’s what we focus on.”

A diverse defensive scheme is essential in the NFL, creating confusion for opposing quarterbacks and offensive coordinators, but if you can’t perfect the fundamentals, it is all for naught.

The Giants understand that their defense was held up by two players last season, defensive lineman Leonard Williams and cornerback James Bradberry (I wouldn’t leave out Blake Martinez either). Williams became a free agent this off-season, signing a three-year, $63 million contract with $45 million guaranteed to stick with Big Blue.
After posting 11.5 sacks and 62 pressures in his best season to date, Williams is looking to build off a fantastic campaign in which earned him a Pro Bowl appearance.

The front office did Williams a big favor, adding plenty of complementary talent at OLB. Specifically, Georgia standout pass rusher Ojulari could end up being a catalyst for William’s success in the future. Ojulari ranked first in the SEC in sacks and forced fumbles, representing one of the best pass rushers in the draft class. Pairing him with Williams off the edge will demand attention from opposing offensive lines, as Williams can soak up double-teams and enable Ojulari to take on offensive tackles 1V1.

Ojulari has fantastic speed and bend, which will play right into stunts and diverse pass rush moves that include Williams twisting and turning to confuse the OL. They have the potential to be an elite tandem, and considering Ojulari is only 21 years old, they have plenty of time to create something special.
The Giants’ defense has the potential to be one of the best in football, with the signing of Adoree Jackson to shore up the No. 2 corner position. With a great secondary, they can line up in man coverage and an above-average pass rush, the defense once again could be the spark plug for success this upcoming season.
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