New York Giants: Leonard Williams on Azeez Ojulari’s development

The New York Giants have another impact player on defense going into this season, and we’ll soon witness his regular season debut. That player is Azeez Ojulari, who the Giants took in the second round this year – but it appears that Ojulari was severely underdrafted. The Giants were able to get the player at such a low spot because of draft week injury rumors, but after training camp and the preseason, Ojulari looks healthy and ready to play.

And he already has teammates singing his praises, including the Giants’ leading pass rusher Leonard Williams. As the player who led the Giants in sacks during the past season, Williams is someone who will likely share playing time with Ojulari in the pass rush and who will already have experience working hands on with him throughout training camp.

Williams was asked on Friday what he’d seen from Ojulari that showed the rookie can make an instant impact. His answer had to do with confidence.

“Honestly, just his confidence. When he first came in, I could tell he was young, he was still trying to find himself in the defense and on the team and rightfully so. As a young guy, you can’t come in and be above everybody. He knew the position that he had to take, but now he’s really stepped into himself,” Williams told reporters.

Furthermore, he claims that Ojulari is in a position to start making plays rather than just picking up the ropes of the system.

“I think he just got more comfortable with himself – not saying that he wasn’t comfortable before he got here, but just seeing his comfortability level between him and other players, and his ability to just be himself out there on the field and not be like a robot just trying to play a system.”

With first round pick Kadarius Toney having a slow start to his career, most publications have named Ojulari the most impactful rookie for the Giants this season. And his presence in a much needed position, pass rusher, could easily make him a fan favorite if his rookie performances are strong.

We’ll get our first look at Ojulari against the Broncos in week 1, and depending on how the game goes, it may not take long for him to receive recognition for his skillset as the defense faces off against new Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

3 players to watch in New York Giants V Cleveland Browns pre-season game

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

After falling to the New York Jets in the first preseason game of the season, the New York Giants are looking to bounce back on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. Having hosted joint practices in Cleveland, the Giants have their fair share of positives and negatives.

Big Blue is expected to rest wide receivers Kadarius Toney and Kenny Golladay and will also be sitting running back Saquon Barkley. With three of the team’s primary offensive weapons failing to make a preseason appearance due to injury, they will all target the final game of the off-season to add some live action against the New England Patriots next week. For now, with roster cuts quickly approaching, the Giants are gauging the value of bubble players.

Nonetheless, preparing the starters for a grueling 17-week regular season is essential, so let’s take a look at several players we should keep an eye on against Cleveland.

Three players to watch in New York Giants V Cleveland Browns pre-season game:

1.) Andrew Thomas

Left tackle Andrew Thomas is going into his second professional season, and he has looked far better this training camp compared to his rookie campaign. Most reports regarding Thomas have been positive, as he stood out against the Browns in joint practices. ESPN coined Thomas, a second-year breakout candidate, and he is living up to expectations thus far in camp, but live-action is an entirely different ball game.

Last week against the Jets, Thomas was on the field for 18 snaps, successfully stopping any pass rushers from generating pressure on the quarterback. He will be looking to produce a second consecutive positive performance and based on his practice this week, that should be the expectation.

2.) Azeez Ojulari

The Giants’ 50th overall pick in the most recent draft class was Georgia stand out pass rusher Azeez Ojulari. After dealing with a minor injury to open camp, Ojulari has showcased his abilities the past few days.

Shedding massive left tackle Mekhi Becton to make a play in the running game last week against the Jets stood out, and he’ll be looking to gain a little bit more exposure against Cleveland. With a solid offensive front, Ojulari dominated tackle Jedrick Wills at times on Friday, forcing a defensive holding and getting into the backfield for a sack on Baker Mayfield.

Ojulari led the SEC last season in sacks and forced fumbles, and he will be looking to roll his success over to the NFL. While it will take him some time to adapt to the physicality and speed, Ojulari will immediately be used as a pass rusher. He’s an expected starter to open the year at this point in the off-season. Another solid outing against Cleveland would further cement that expectation.

3.) Daniel Jones

There is plenty of anticipation revolving around quarterback Daniel Jones and his first action of the preseason on Sunday. It is yet to be known if he will take the field, but Jones could use the reps and a full series to get his legs working. While live-action drills during practice are beneficial, the emotion and feel of a live NFL game are quite different, and with Patrick Mahomes enjoying few snaps against the Cardinals on Friday, it is fair to imagine the Giants will approach Jones similarly.

The hopeful franchise quarterback has had his fair share of ups and downs this training camp but had a stellar outing against Cleveland on Friday, picking them apart in red-zone drills and finding his receivers routinely. He connected with TE Evan Engram several times up the seam and hit Darius Slayton on numerous occasions in the end zone.

He seems to be more comfortable in the pocket, but Jones will only go as far as the offensive line takes him, and the Giants are still nervous about allowing too much pressure and potentially putting him in harm’s way. Allowing him to take a few snaps shouldn’t curate too much fear, as sooner rather than later, the Giants are going to have to test things in real-time.

New York Giants: Azeez Ojulari named key rookie for 2021 season

new york giants, azeez ojulari

The New York Giants took wide receiver Kadarius Toney in the first round, but it might be another player that makes the biggest instant impact in their fates during the 2021 season. Some are predicting that player to be outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari, the team’s second round pick who they took after a long fall out of a projected first round selection.

There’s a lot to like about Ojulari – he was projected to go as high as the top 10 in this year’s draft, shores up the pass rush which hasn’t been a deep area of the Giants defense for years, and adds more talent for a low price to a defensive line that was hurt by the loss of tackle Dalvin Tomlinson.

All of those things are reasons why Ojulari was named the pivotal rookie for the Giants in a recent list from NFL.com which included selections for every team.

Kadarius Toney might have been the Giants’ first-round pick, but he’s dealt with issue after issue over the last few months. Meanwhile, Ojulari is beginning to make his mark. Edge rusher Oshane Ximines just recently was activated from the physically-unable-to-perform list and has just five career starts to his name, so the opportunity is there for the taking. Ojulari can compete for starting reps and bolster the overall depth of a quality front.

Ojulari had one tackle in the preseason opener for the Giants and was praised particularly for the way he beat Jets tackle and higher draft pick from last year Mekhi Becton to do so.

He’ll likely have a growing role in coming games, and with Kadarius Toney struggling with different problems this offseason and taking a slower start to his career, Ojulari may just be the first Giants rookie this season to make his mark as an impact player.

Giants’ OLB Azeez Ojulari details his performance in first pre-season game

joe judge, new york giants

The New York Giants had their fair share of ups and downs during the first preseason game to the New York Jets. Scoring just seven points doesn’t exactly indicate an efficient offense with good pass protection. However, the defense held the Jets to just 12 points, despite the majority of the starters sitting and allowing the Giants’ depth pieces to compete for roster spots.

However, getting some of the rookies on the field for their first professional action was a priority. Georgia pass rusher and 50th overall pick Azeez Ojulari enjoyed his first NFL action, posting just one tackle, but did overcome Mekhi Becton at left tackle in the run game.

Keep in mind Becton is a 6’7”, 363-pound mountain, while Ojulari is 6’2”, 249 pounds. Using his athleticism and technique, the former SEC sack leader managed to beat Becton and secure the edge.

“They called a play and I just tried to play my technique the best that I can,” Ojulari said regarding his shedded block against Becton. “He’s a big guy and I just tried to shed off of him and make a play. Just playing football.”

Despite a small sample size, Azeez showed some prowess sealing the edge against the run. Of course, a larger sample size will provide more film to work off of, but the Giants were just happy to get him on the field and in the action.

“It was great. Finally got the opportunity to go out and compete against a different team. It was just great. It was a learning curve for me just continuing to go out there and get better. It was phenomenal,” he said.

Big Blue is gearing up to take on the Cleveland Browns on August 22 at 7 PM. The Browns are coming off a 23-13 preseason win against the Jacksonville Jaguars. We might expect to see the starters feature for the Browns to open the game, but it will quickly transition to a depth matchup. Interestingly, former Giants reserve quarterback Kyle Lauletta recorded 212 yards and two scores last week for Cleveland, while the Giants’ reserve QBs both underperformed. In fact, Clayton Thorson has already been waived.

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.

New York Giants: Azeez Ojulari shortlisted as DROY candidate

new york giants, azeez ojulari

The rest of the NFL may have messed up by allowing New York Giants draft pick Azeez Ojulari to fall all the way to the 50th selection where the Giants took him. Ojulari was predicted originally to be a high first round pick, and was even mocked to the Giants with the 11th selection by some names in the draft analysis community.

However, due to late news that came out about a potential knee problem, Ojulari fell and the Giants were able to get the player for what looks like far less than his true value.

The Giants organization is confident that the knee story isn’t accurate, and that they’re getting a healthy player with Ojulari. Many media members around the league have been bullish so far in their predictions about Ojulari’s performance, estimating him to perform like the upper first round player that he was projected as.

The latest of those predictions is from NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein and has Ojulari as one of the candidates for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award. While Ojulari only comes in at 9th on the list, it’s impressive to get that kind of acknowledgement at all after falling significantly and being drafted in the second round.

The Giants had way too much rush production come from their big men up front — defensive tackle Leonard Williams, who had 11.5 sacks, was the only player to post more than four last season — so they’re hoping Ojulari can give their attack more life off the edge. The tape can be a little uneven at times, but his flashes are really eye-catching. Georgia did so much rotating along their defensive front that I didn’t always feel like he was able to get into a groove. He’ll be on the field full-time for the Giants, and if the coaches can cultivate those flashes into a skilled rush, Ojulari will be a legitimate contender out of this group.

If Ojulari does perform like this, he’ll definitely go down as one of the better draft picks under Dave Gettleman. And the Giants are especially lucky that Ojulari fell to this spot, as the pick also addresses a major area of need.

Note that the article doesn’t mention the injury concerns that led to Ojulari falling in the first place. Those have, for the most part, fallen by the wayside more recently.

With the way those injury concerns have completely fallen out of discussion, and the Giants organization hasn’t found anything wrong with Ojulari yet, it’s safe to say his fall from first round prospect may very well happened because of misplaced and ill-informed rumors leading up to the draft rather than anything with merit.

Giants could have dynamic pass rush duo on the defensive line

New York Giants, Leonard Williams

When the New York Giants initially drafted Azeez Ojulari 50th overall in the 2021 NFL draft, they envisioned the overhauling of their outside linebackers unit. With one of the best interior defenses in the NFL, consisting of Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence, adding a few high-quality pass rushers on the outside would theoretically give the Giants a tantalizing pass rush.

With Williams signing a fresh three-year, $63 million deal with the Giants, he’s hoping to replicate his 2020 production, where he posted 11.5 sacks, 57 tackles, and 30 QB hits. He set career highs in nearly every pass rush category, including a low 3.4% missed tackle rate, indicating consistency as a tackler.

As the Giants’ top interior defender and arguably their best player, pairing him with Georgia stand-out Ojulari could provide the Giants a dynamic pass rush duo.

Ojulari ranked first in both sacks (9.5) and forced fumbles (4.0) last season in the SEC, registering a unique ability to curate turnovers at the point of attack. With an incredible bend and a great club move, Azeez is primed to be an effective pass rusher right out of the gate, which is exactly what the Giants need considering their lack of talent last year at the position.

Williams demands considerable attention in the trenches, commanding double teams frequently, which should theoretically allow Ojulari to face off against singular players. With his athleticism, speed, and band, getting around the edge will likely be his go-to move in his rookie season. If he can effectively overwhelm tackles, the Giants will have a good shot at improving their sack totals next season (40 total in 2020).

Surprisingly, the Giants and Ojulari were being linked with the 11th overall pick just days before the draft, let alone the 50th. In an extremely lucky series of events, the Giants managed to trade back, acquiring a third-round selection while also adding arguably the most talented pass rusher in the draft class. A torn ACL several years ago was of concern from some teams, but general manager Dave Gettleman assured the fan base that Ojulari’s knee was not a concerning factor.

With coordinator Patrick Graham looking to rely on Cover-1 defense in 2021, a focus on pass-rush will ultimately be a bi-product. It was clear the Giants prioritized adding OLBs to the roster, signing and drafting a total of four, let alone the comeback of Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines.

However, Ojulari is the only option that has unlimited upside, with the exception of Elerson Smith, who is a bit undersized but could end up being a stellar rotational piece earlier in his career.

Giants’ Azeez Ojulari could take the defense to another level in 2021

new york giants, azeez ojulari

When the New York Giants officially landed Georgia standout pass rusher Azeez Ojulari with a 50th overall pick, management couldn’t believe their luck. Ojulari ranked first in the SEC last season with 9.5 sacks and four forced fumbles, presenting a fantastic addition to the defensive front for Big Blue.

Having collected 14.0 total sacks over the past two seasons, Ojulari hosted the highest PFP pass-rush grade of the 2020 season among his fellow class members at 91.7.

With a few above-average pass rush moves, including a nasty double club, Ojulari is entering his rookie season as a refined player with plenty of qualities to translate to the NFL. At 21 years old, adjusting to the physicality and strength of the NFL will be difficult, but his speed around the edge and bend gives him an advantage around heavy-footed offensive tackles.

The Giants will likely have a starting job for the taking at OLB, and if Ojulari performs well during training camp and preseason, he could start the year lined up next to Leonard Williams or Dexter Lawrence. Former Giants linebacker Carl Banks stated that the Georgia product should “pay immediate dividends” as a situational pass rusher, but he could have an even greater impact.

“The thing that separated Azeez from others was he’s pro-ready with his hands,’’ said Chris Pettit, the Giants’ director of college scouting. “He’s instinctive. The guy has the ability to make big plays in big spots. He’s ultra-competitive. He has good instincts.’’

There were rumors that the Giants could end up taking Ojulari with the 11th overall pick, so getting him 39 spots later was a home run selection. In addition, they managed to trade back and acquire an extra third-round pick for next year’s draft, increasing his value further.

Some believed Azeez was the best natural pass rusher in the draft, with only Jaelan Phillips out of Miami presenting a close competitor. Adding to Ojulari’s strengths on the field, he’s also a high character player off the field, which is something the Giants have begun prioritizing — a great locker room guy.

Ultimately, with the further bolstering of the secondary, all the Giants truly lack is a dominant pass rusher at the outside linebacker position. They added four new faces, including Elerson Smith, Ifeadi Odenigbo, and Ryan Anderson. Based on the talent they had at their disposal last year, we should expect vastly different statistical outputs on a weekly basis, and Ojulari could be a catalyst in the defensive line’s future dominance.

New York Giants: Azeez Ojulari pick called smartest move this offseason

Leading up to the NFL Draft, some mock drafts had the New York Giants taking Azeez Ojulari at eleven. After all, the Giants have been trying to work out their pass rush for the past few years and Ojulari entered the draft as one of the top prospects at that impact position. So it was quite surprising for most, then, when the Giants were able to pick up Ojulari outside the first round entirely.

They selected him with their second round pick after a surprising fall, but many analysts are still high on Ojulari’s prospects and believe the Giants gained a major steal.

On a list of every team’s smartest offseason move from Bleacher Report, selecting Ojulari was named the smartest move for the Giants.

The Giants will benefit from this gamble. If Ojulari goes through the 2021 campaign without any issues, he’s a candidate to log double-digit sacks. The 6’2″, 249-pounder can beat tackles with speed and great use of his hands on the edge. The rookie’s short-area quickness, coupled with his balance, allows him to stay in position for a sack on stunts.

With Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence on the interior of the defensive line, they’ll open lanes for Ojulari to squeeze through and collapse the pocket. He’s a Day 2 pick who should make an immediate impact in Year 1.

What makes the Ojulari pick a gamble?

The thing that caused Ojulari to fall out of the first round and muddied the waters around his draft stock is an injury rumor. Word came out about Ojulari’s knee not long before the draft, and teams seemed to take this seriously as the alleged knee problem was said to be serious.

Ojulari does have a history of knee injury from high school, but was otherwise healthy during his time at Georgia and initially appeared to be all clear entering the draft.

Giants GM Dave Gettleman, after drafting the player, claimed that the Giants don’t know where the rumors about Ojulari’s knee came from.

If this is the case, and those rumors were simply draft week smoke and mirrors that don’t amount to anything substantial, it looks like many of these predictions are right and the Giants did come away with a steal.

After all, not many other teams can say they were able to secure a potential top 10 prospect in the second round.

New York Giants forming a dangerous Georgia EDGE duo

new york giants, azeez ojulari

The New York Giants‘ defense endured a plethora of injuries in 2020. In particular, many of the injuries occurred at the edge rusher position. Both starting edge rushers, Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines, suffered season-ending injuries.

Lorenzo Carter will return to the starting lineup this season. He has participated in OTA’s this week and looks sharp. Many were surprised to see him on the practice field. Carter has returned and he is joined by a new arrival on the practice field. Rookie edge rusher Azeez Ojulari was an exciting draft pick for the Giants in the second round of this year’s NFL Draft. The Georgia edge rusher will be a huge addition to the Giants’ defense.

Lorenzo Carter and Azeez Ojulari stats and highlights

The New York Giants’ edge rusher position seems to be improving steadily. They have added mid-round draft picks, like Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines, over the years, but the investment in a first-round talent like Azeez Ojulari is telling. The Giants recognize a weakness on the edge and have now fully addressed it.

Azeez Ojulari had been mocked to the Giants with the 11th overall pick pre-draft. He ended up in New York, but not until pick 50. That is incredible value for the Giants. Ojulari recorded an impressive 9.5 sacks in his breakout 2020 season. He also totaled 12.5 tackles for loss and an incredible 4 forced fumbles. Ojulari was credited with 35 pressures by PFF in 2020. He’s a bendy speed-rusher with a sick pass-rush move that beats down left tackles

Lorenzo Carter and Azeez Ojulari have more in common than playing for the Giants. Both of these players are speedy pass-rushers that played for the Georgia Bulldogs. The Giants’ new Georgia edge-rushing duo could be an imposing force for offenses to gameplan around.

Lorenzo Carter played in only five games in 2020. However, Carter’s play during those five games was impressive. The Giants finally felt confident in their edge-rushing with Carter. He racked up a sack and 7 pressures in those five games and looked faster and stronger than he had in the past.

Unfortunately, the duo of Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines was not keeping opposing offensive linemen up at night. The Giants recognized this and made it a priority to upgrade the position. They feel they have done that by adding Azeez Ojulari to the mix. Lorenzo Carter and Azeez Ojulari could be a dangerous tandem in 2021 as the Giants hope to improve their pass-rush.