Can Owamagbe Odighizuwa be a factor for the New York Giants on defense as a rookie? Let's look at the defensive end as we continue our series of player-by-player profiles of the 90-man roster the Giants will bring to training camp.
2014 Season in Review
After missing the 2013 season due to hip surgery, Odighizuwa had six sacks, 11.5 tackles for loss and five passes defensed playing as a 3-4 defensive end for the UCLA Bruins. Some thought he had earned the right to be a late-first or second-round selection in the 2015 NFL Draft. The Giants, of course, selected him in the third round, 74th overall.
2015 Season Outlook
The Giants have historically taken their time in developing young defensive ends. Michael Strahan made no starts as a rookie in 1993. Osi Umenyiora started one game in 2003. Justin Tuck started one game in 2005. Jason Pierre-Paul made no starts in 2010. Each player was worked slowly into the lineup, and when they selected Odighizuwa it sounded as if the plan was pretty similar with the 6-foot-3, 267-pound rookie.
"There are a lot of things to like about him. He plays hard. We think there's a lot of upside. When you start picking guys in the third round, those are guys that have some things they have to get better at, some developmental qualities that they have to get better at," said GM Jerry Reese. "There's a lot of things to like about him. We just think we can get a guy in the third round who's going to be a core special teams player while he's learning how to adjust to the game up here. He's a big, powerful guy. An amazing body. We're hoping to hit on this guy as a pass-rusher."
The uncertainty surrounding Pierre-Paul may accelerate the time table for Odighizuwa. The Giants have Robert Ayers, Damontre Moore, George Selvie and Kerry Wynn, but if Pierre-Paul is sidelined for part of the season -- or not a Giant at all -- there could certainly be room for Odghizuwa to be a part of the rotation.
Odighizuwa missed much of OTAs and got just a handful of reps in minicamp due to a knee issue, which may slow his learning curve. One thing the personable 23-year-old believes will help him is playing a true 4-3 defensive end rather than in the 3-4 used by UCLA.
"Any time you are in a 4-3 system and your linemen are asked to attack up field and wreak havoc it is always exciting," Odighizuwa said. "I feel like my skill set is definitely fitting for that type of defense, so I am excited about it. I think it is going to be great for me."
It would be great for the Giants if Odighizuwa can quickly become a force on the defensive line.