When the New York Giants drafted former Georgia stand-out pass rusher Azeez Ojulari with the 50th overall pick back in 2021, many were skeptical about the health of his knee. A previous ACL injury had degraded his draft stock, dropping him from the 1st round all the way to the middle of the 2nd, where the Giants were patiently waiting.
Ojulari ended up being one of the most productive pass rushers of any rookie last year. He recorded 8.0 sacks, 49 tackles, 8.0 tackles for loss, and 13 quarterback hits.
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Azeez Ojulari is looking to round out his game:
Azeez struggled with his run defense at times due to a lack of size in 2021. He entered the league at 6’3″, 240 pounds, but he’s bulked up to about 255 pounds, adding 15 pounds of pure muscle mass.
“I feel like as a rusher you’ve got to have some type of power with you when you rush,’’ Ojulari said, per Paul Schwartz of the New York Post. “You can’t just always go speed. These tackles nowadays are so athletic and good, everyone is very professional. So you’ve got to add — you’ve got to switch it up a little bit. We’re in the NFL, so everyone is going to be big and strong, so it’s just that little niche, what you can do to get yourself a little ahead.’’
The second-year outside linebacker isn’t simply trying to elevate his run defense, he’s also trying to add a power element to his pass rush strategy.
“When we got here in February, watching him on tape, you realized this is a guy who had an exciting, big year in year one,’’ said new OLB coach Drew Wilkins. “But then he comes in and he looks like the Incredible Hulk and you recognize this is a guy who put in work from the time that great season ended until he came back here.
Ojulari has an incredibly thin waist but broad shoulders with a muscular upper body. The concerns that once plagued his knee are gone, and he’s taking tremendous steps forward physically to help the Giants elevate defensively. Big Blue also drafted Kayvon Thibodeaux with a 5th overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft, pairing Ojulari with a dynamic pass rusher on the opposite side.
Building a strong defensive unit starts in the trenches, and the Giants now have two young pass rushers who could develop into extremely productive players, given they maintain their health.