When New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo saw Justin Tuck at the team facility in the days leading up to his retirement announced this spring, Spagnuolo thought "that's the way they're supposed to look. Those defensive ends in a 4-3, that's the way they look."
Owamagbe Odighizuwa looks like that. Tuck was 6-foot-5, 270 pounds. He was long and lean, the build the Giants like in their defensive ends.. Odighizuwa is a chiseled 6-3, 270 pounds. Pardon me for this, but with his shirt off Odighizuwa looks stunning. Both Tuck and Odighizuwa came out of college timed at 4.62 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
The parallels between Tuck and Odighizuwa don't stop there. Both were chosen 74th overall in the NFL Draft by the Giants, Tuck in 2005 and Odighizuwa in 2015. Neither player got off to a quick start in the NFL. Tuck started only one game in his first two seasons, had just one sack, and finished his second season on IR. Even in his third year, the Super Bowl season of 2007, he started only two regular-season games while compiling 10 sacks. Odighizuwa had a frustrating rookie season, playing in just four games, with no sacks and just three tackles. He spent much of the year on short-term IR.
Now, the question for the Giants and Odighizuwa is whether or not the second-year player can continue to mirror Tuck's career. Can he step up and provide the Giants with the third pass-rushing defensive end they could desperately use? Can he, after a disappointing start to his career, make strides toward becoming the next great defensive end drafted and developed by the Giants?
Let's take a closer look at Odighizuwa as we continue our series of player-by-player profiles of the 90-man roster the Giants will bring to training camp in just a few weeks.
2015 Season in Review
Odighizuwa had pretty much a lost rookie season for the Giants. He suffered a hamstring injury, then a mysterious foot ailment that landed him on short-term IR. Even when he was finally ready to play, and eligible to do so in the season finale, the Giants chose not to activate him. He ended up playing only 126 defensive snaps all season.
2016 Season Outlook
The Giants have Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon at the starting defensive end spots. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has always been able to use extra defensive ends when he has had good ones at his disposal, and it was apparent in the spring that the Giants have a plan for Odighizuwa. They lined him up at defensive end, used him at defensive tackle in pass-rush packages and used him occasionally as a stand-up defensive end.
"I think it's exciting," Odighizuwa told Pat Traina during the spring. "I know right now, (defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo) has me rushing inside as a three-technique, rushing from the outside backing up (Jason Pierre-Paul) and (Olivier Vernon). Sometimes I stand up and rush off the edge while other times in sub packages, I'll drop a little bit. So it's been nice. Coach Spags is giving me a lot of versatility and opportunity, and I'm trying to make the most of it."
Odighizuwa will rely on some advice from Tuck, but since his rookie season he has also leaned on former Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora for pass rush help. Odighizuwa played as a 3-4 defensive end at UCLA, and rushing the passer as a 4-3 defensive end requires learning some new techniques.Odighizuwa told Traina that Umenyiora is "my idol."
A healthy Pierre-Paul and Vernon give the Giants a nice start toward rebuilding their pass rush. They need more, however. It looks like they are counting on Odighizuwa to be part of the solution.
Here is one more quote from the Traina Q&A with Odighizuwa, which I encourage you to go and read:
"I know from last preseason, there was a lot of buzz and excitement over what I was putting out there on film. I think what people haven't seen is what I can really do. I'm a guy who's built for a 4-3 defensive end. I have the measurables and the skill set," Odighizuwa said. "It's time for me to take that step every day and put it all together. I think that's what I want people to see this year, that I'm going to put it together at practice and out there on game and put out exciting football."
If the second-year defensive end can take steps in 2016 toward becoming a player who impacted games the way Tuck and Umenyiora did, that certainly will be exciting. It looks like the Giants are going to give him that chance.