Azeez Ojulari groaned in disgust before the question was even fully formulated. The New York Giants’ second-round draft pick is tired of hearing the constant “Ojulari has only one pass rush move” stuff that became popular during the pre-draft cycle.
“At the end of the day it’s about getting to the quarterback. Whatever you use to get to the quarterback efficiently. If you can do it with that one move, you don’t have to have like a thousand moves, you can do it with the one and if it works keep going to it until you’ve gotta switch it up,” Ojulari told Big Blue View during an exclusive chat on Monday afternoon.
“Don’t break what’s not broken.”
Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning had previously told Big Blue View that “I just kinda laugh” when the idea that Ojulari can’t succeed with one dominant pass rush move is presented to him.
“Ultimately, why would you not do something that works? It’s obviously been very effective for him,” Lanning said.
“You go look at the Pro Bowl. Every elite pass rusher has a signature move. Whether that be Dwight Freeney on the spin move, Jason Taylor on the long arm. That’s what I think makes Azeez special is he has a signature move, but why would you not want that?”
That single move for Ojulari is a dip and rip move where he controls an offensive tackle’s hands, dips his shoulder to bend the edge and wins to the outside.
“That’s the only move I’ve got, but it’s just the most effective to get to the quarterback, and it works,” Ojulari said. “If not, I’ll just try something else, find something else that’ll work.”
Ojulari told Big Blue View there are more tricks in his pass rushing bag.
“That’s not the only move I’ve got, but it’s just the most effective to get to the quarterback, and it works. If not, I’ll just try something else, find something else that’ll work.”
The other annoying topic Ojulari keeps being asked about, and that we had to address during our chat, was the reported “degenerative lower leg condition” resulting from a high school torn ACL that caused a player some thought to be the draft’s best edge defender to fall all the way to the 50th pick.
“I’m saying what is that,” Ojulari said when I dropped the “degenerative lower leg condition” phrase on him.
Many thought Ojulari would be the first edge rusher off the board, and yours truly had him in play for the Giants with the 11th pick before the knee concerns started circulating just days before the draft.
‘I was shocked. I was surprised. I was like ‘what was this?’ This never was a factor with me playing the whole season. I never missed no practices, no games, no nothing. I was always there,” Ojulari said. It just came up outta nowhere. I don’t know what happened, who put it out, but like I don’t have any issues with my knee so it was crazy because it just shocked me because I’m 100 percent healthy.”
Much has also been made of Ojulari’s relationship with Giants left tackle Andrew Thomas, the team’s first-round pick a year ago, who he both played and lived with at Georgia. In his first videoconference as a Giant he tweaked his former roomie, saying he beat him “evry single day” in practice.
Ojulari backed off that a bit during our chat.
“We just go at it every day at practice, good on good. He wins sometimes, I win sometimes,” Ojulari said. “It was basically just us getting better going against each other, good on good. Just that battle.”
When you live with someone, there is always something about that person — friend, spouse, convenient roomie or whatever — that drives you up the wall. I tried to get Ojulari to spill the beans on what bugged him about Thomas. He wasn’t having it.
“He’s really chill. He’s chill to live with. He’s a great person. Watching movies, playing the piano. He’s really just really chill. Might play spades with him. He’s a chill guy,” Ojulari said.
He doesn’t leave his dirty clothes laying around? Play the piano when you’re trying to sleep? Not clean up the kitchen?
“Nothing,” said Ojulari.
Again and again since the Giants shrewdly moved down from No. 42 to No. 50 in Round to select Ojulari we have heard praise for the move. By some, Ojulari has been called a steal at No. 50. By others, a perfect fit for an edge-rush needy Giants team that asks its edge defenders to have a varied skill set.
“Makes me feel really good. I feel like it is [a fit], to be honest,” Ojulari said. “There are certain things we did at Georgia that definitely correlate to what the Giants are doing. I’ve been doing it for the past three years at Georgia and it’s definitely going to correlate to the New York Giants, and it’s going to be good for me. It’s a perfect fit.”
Another thing you hear about Ojulari is how he was a leader at Georgia, a player who earned the right be a captain as a redshirt freshman. He is a player Thomas said “doesn’t care about the glory.”
“It means a lot just knowing that your teammates can count on you and respect you at a young age. All I knew was hard work and trying to get better every single day and trying to get my teammates better,” Ojulari said. “Just trying to be a leader as a young guy, doing it the right way. Leading by example, being on time with everything, giving 100 percent effort, doing it the right way, the Georgia way. I just came in doing that and people just followed my lead.”
The 20-year-old Ojulari will likely be the youngest player on the 90-man roster when the Giants report to training camp.
“I don’t think about the age now, it’s just about what we do out there. Play the game the way we play the game,” Ojulari said. “No matter how young you are it’s what’s inside you. It’s that heart. You gotta bring it every day. You know what it is — it’s business. It’s time to work. I’m going to be ready.”
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