The Giants have a fierce, long-term pass-rushing duo forming

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The New York Giants entered the 2022 NFL Draft with a major weakness on defense. The Giants needed to add another edge rusher to their lineup. New York struck gold with the fifth overall pick in the draft, drafting Kayvon Thibodeaux out of Oregon. Kayvon was once looked at as the top prospect in this year’s class, and many believe he has the potential to be a perennial All-Pro. The Giants are pairing him alongside Azeez Ojulari, the team’s second-round pick in last year’s draft. These two will combine to form a fierce pass-rushing duo on the Giants’ defense for a long time.

Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari: The Giants’ potentially elite pass-rushing duo

There were rumors that the New York Giants would draft Georgia edge rusher Azeez Ojulari with the eleventh overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Instead, they traded down, then traded down again, then stole Ojulari with the fiftieth overall pick. Azeez posted 8 sacks, 49 combined tackles, and 8 tackles for loss in his rookie season. Ojulari established himself as one of the best young edge rushers in the league, and now, the Giants just added a premiere rookie at the same position to play alongside him.

Azeez Ojulari has great potential to be a top-tier edge rusher. Yet, the Giants’ other edge rusher has even greater potential. Kayvon Thibodeaux’s potential is elite. Some believe he had the highest ceiling of any prospect in this year’s draft class. Kayvon models his game off of All-Pro Von Miller and mirrors his playing style closely at times. Kayvon has an elite first step and all the athletic tools necessary to turn himself into a premier pass-rusher.

Kayvon Thibodeaux is a 6-foot-4, 254-pound athletic freak of nature. The 2021 1st-Team AP All-American produced 19 sacks and 35.5 tackles for loss in 32 games across his collegiate career. He has been described as a “perfect fit” for Wink Martindale’s 3-4 blitz-heavy defense. Kayvon has room to grow, but he was a star for Oregon from the moment he stepped on the field as a freshman. The New York Giants have secured themselves a potential star in Kayvon Thibodeaux.

The Giants are financially flexible at edge rusher

Edge rusher is one of the most expensive positions in the NFL. Signing a premium pass-rusher will run teams upwards of $20 million. The Giants, currently in a cap pinch, could never afford to improve that position through free agency. However, the exciting part of the Giants’ defensive construction is their rookie contracts. Azeez Ojulari and Kayvon Thibodeaux both have the potential to be excellent players on cost-efficient rookie contracts.

Azeez Ojulari is playing on a rookie contract with an average salary of $1.6M. His cap hit will exceed $2M only in the final year of his deal in 2024. Kayvon Thibodeaux has yet to sign his rookie deal, though it will not break the Giants’ bank when he signs. The 2021 fifth-overall pick (Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase) signed a contract worth about $7.7M on average annually. Chase’s contract is well below his worth as one of the NFL’s top receivers.

Kayvon Thibodeaux’s four-year contract, with a fifth-year club option, is projected to be worth $36,206,254 with a $23,511,820 signing bonus per OverTheCap. As with Ja’Marr Chase, this will put Thibodeaux on an incredibly affordable salary ranging from $7-9 million. If Kayvon develops into one of the NFL’s best edge rushers, this will be viewed as one of the biggest bargain contracts in the league. Having top-tier players on rookie contracts at expensive positions gives the Giants a great amount of funds to invest elsewhere.

2 Giants defenders who could have breakout seasons in 2022

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It is no secret the New York Giants are re-tooling for the 2022 season, given their two first-round picks and nine overall draft selections. With new management looking to rebuild the roster and set a foundation, there will be plenty of new faces after the draft.

However, there are a few young guys currently on the roster who could end up becoming legitimate impact players.

Two Giants defenders who could break out in 2022:

1.) Aaron Robinson

When the Giants drafted Aaron Robinson in the third round last year, nobody exactly knew what they were getting in the former UCF defensive back. However, Robinson was known for his physicality and aggressive style, which fits Wink Martindale’s defensive scheme to perfection.

Apparently, the Philadelphia Eagles were eyeing Robinson before the Giants leapfrogged them to make the selection. Last year, Robinson gave up 153 yards and one touchdown over 268 total snaps. His coverage grades were mostly solid, but he had a few hiccups trying to battle receivers downfield.

Nonetheless, Robinson learned plenty about positioning and using his body for leverage. Given he missed a good portion of the season due to injury, his upside was undoubtedly on display.

The 2nd year corner has a good head on his shoulders, focusing on learning and getting better each and every day:

“I feel like putting myself in a position with my coaches and — putting myself in a position to learn the material and, you know, like I just mentioned, trying to take everything the best way that I can and apply it to my game.”

Robinson spent time with Gabe Davis at UCF, mentioning how they would battle it out during practice. Davis was drafted by Joe Schoen and Brandon Bean’s Buffalo Bills in the 4th round two years ago, so there’s a connection (small but relevant).

“Definitely had some battles with Gabe. Pretty much just great work everywhere with those guys.”

If Robinson can unlock his aggressive style and dominate in man coverage, he could end up being a starter for the Giants moving forward. If Big Blue decides to trade James Bradberry to clear $11.7 million in cap space, Robinson could be thrust into a potential starting role, at the very least competing for snaps.

2.) Azeez Ojulari

One of the Giants’ most exciting young prospects is Azeez Ojulari, who tallied 8.0 sacks, 13 quarterback hits, and 49 combined tackles last season. He also picked up two passes defended, one forced fumble, and a tackles for loss.

Oddly, the Giants managed to snag Ojulari with the 50th overall pick last year after concerns regarding his knee began to bubble. However, it seems to have been all smoke given his solid production at just 21 years old.

Ojulari enjoyed his best performance of the season against the Carolina Panthers in Week 7 last year, posting eight tackles, three sacks, and four QB hurries. He was dominant against the Panthers, a game the Giants managed to win, holding their opponents to three points.

With a year of experience under his belt and a bit more functional strength, Ojulari should be not only a force rushing the passer but also sealing the edge in the run game. His development is key to the defense’s success. If the Giants manage to draft another high-end pass rusher to pair with him on the opposite side, they will be looking at an extremely exciting situation in the trenches.

New York Giants: Azeez Ojulari comes away from loss with rookie record

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There’s not a lot of light right now for the New York Giants. Not only did the offense put up another terrible performance in Miami, but the Giants are down another quarterback and may have to start practice squad pickup Jake Fromm. It’s not surprising, then, that the good news is coming from the defensive side of the ball and not the offense.

Even if the performance was, as a whole, more disappointment, Azeez Ojulari still showed up to continue his good rookie season. Ojulari had 4 tackles,  1 of them for a loss, and also picked up another sack to move to 6.5 on the season. It’s his first sack after 4 games without one and the sack gives him the edge over B.J. Hill for the Giants rookie record for sacks in a season.

What Ojulari’s performance means for the Giants

Ojulari is currently the team leader in sacks, sitting a single sack ahead of Leonard Williams.

His performance this season is further proof that the Giants made the right choice in selecting him in the second round, after he was initially projected as an upper first round prospect. Ojulari’s slide was primarily due to last minute injury concerns, but this appears to have been draft week smoke and mirrors.

With that being said, Ojulari is only one player on a defensive line that could use more production as an overall unit. Pass rusher has notably been a position the Giants have had a hard time drafting for.

B.J. Hill, the player who Ojulari surpassed for the rookie sack record, is no longer on the team after a trade this August in exchange for Billy Price. Lorenzo Carter has played in 9 games but has no sacks and only 1 QB hit.

Despite this breakout performance from Ojulari this year, don’t be surprised if the Giants still target a pass rusher such as Aidan Hutchinson with one of their first round picks come the 2022 draft.

New York Giants: Azeez Ojulari’s rookie season off to incredible start

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The New York Giants are 0-3 and in the midst of dark times as an organization. However, there are some silver linings to appreciate. Rookie edge rusher Azeez Ojulari is a shining light in the middle of this dark shadow for the Giants to celebrate.

The Giants drafted Azeez Ojulari with the 50th overall pick in this year’s 2021 NFL Draft. Ojulari was expected to be drafted in the top twenty picks of the first round, but he fell deep into round two. The Giants were thought to have gotten one of the biggest steals of the draft when they selected Azeez Ojulari out of Georgia. Through three games, it sure seems like a steal is what they got.

Azeez Ojulari stats and highlights

Azeez Ojulari is making an early case for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Through three games, Ojulari looks like a strong candidate for the end-of-season award. The Giants have seen real promise from their second-round pick to start this season.

Azeez has managed to record a sack in each of the first three games of this season. Through three games, Ojulari has recorded 7 combined tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, and 1 forced fumble.

Pro Football Focus was particularly impressed with Azeez Ojulari’s Week Three performance. Ojulari earned a 92.2 overall PFF grade during Sunday’s contest. He was also nominated for the Pepsi Zero Sugar Rookie of the Week Award.

Through the first three weeks of the season, Ojulari has earned a 77.5 pass rush grade, good for the 23rd-highest mark among all edge defenders. It is also the highest pass rush grade among edge defenders from the 2021 draft class, and the third-highest among all rookies. His three sacks currently lead the 2021 rookie class. – via Giants.com

The Giants are in a hole at 0-3 to start the season. But as a long-term investment, Azeez Ojulari seems to have been a steal in the second round of this year’s draft. Azeez has flashed some excellent potential. Giants fans will enjoy watching Azeez Ojulari develop during his rookie season.

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

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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

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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

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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.