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Giants’ rookie Azeez Ojulari providing bright spot amidst horrible start

The rookie pass rusher focuses on improving every day

New York Giants v Washington Football Team Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

New York Giants’ second-round selection Azeez Ojulari has three sacks in the first three games of the season, the first Giants’ rookie to accomplish that feat. He also has eight pressures on the year.

“I’m just doing whatever they want me to do. Playing my heart (out), playing my best, playing my heart out (out) there,” Ojulari said on Monday. “Just whatever comes to me, make the plays that come my way. I’m just trying to do what I’ve got to do and do my part.”

The hustle and tough playing style is evident on film. On Sunday, Ojulari defeated Kaleb McGary with a great inside pass rushing move to force a fumble at the end of the first half.

Ojulari kept his momentum low, played with great leverage, and used a strong double swipe on the inside arm of Matthews to assist the tackle’s momentum further up the pass rushing arc. In doing so, Ojulari created a path to Matt Ryan and he forced a fumble to end the drive which can be found below. A savvy play from a young pass rusher.

Here is Ojulari’s list of accomplishments after three games:

  • Ojulari is the first Giants player ever with at least one sack in each of his first three games with the team. And, of course, he is the first Giants player with a sack in each of his first three career games.
  • Ojulari is the first NFL player with at least one sack in each of his first three career games since Cleveland’s Myles Garrett in 2017.
  • Ojulari is the first Giants player with at least one sack in at least three consecutive games since Olivier Vernon had one in five straight games from Nov. 6-Dec. 4, 2016. Vernon totaled 7.0 sacks in that stretch, including 2.0 in each of the final two games.
  • Ojulari is the first Giants player with at least one sack in each of his first three games of a season since Osi Umenyiora had one in each of his first four games in 2011.

Ojulari was asked about the work Sunday of his his college teammate, Tae Crowder, who took over defensive play calling when Blake Martinez tore his ACL. Crowder finished with 11 tackles.

“It was good. Tae came in, Tae is prepared. Everyone gets the coaching, so we’re all prepared for the moment if someone goes down, the next man has to step up. We’ve just got to stay together as a defense. Going back to the training we’ve been doing, relying on the training we’ve been doing this whole time, so everyone is going to be prepared. The next man is prepared and ready to go,” Ojulari said. “It sucks to lose Blake, but it’s part of the game. Injuries are part of the game, so we’ve just got to keep going. I’m praying for him. He’s going to be good for sure.”

Losing Martinez is a devastating loss on many levels. Crowder has huge shoes to fill from not only a physical standpoint, but a mental one as well. He also has to ensure that other players are performing their tasks and that the defense is set for the offensive plays. There’s a lot of adaptation, attention to detail, and communicating that goes along with this role.

Ojulari was then asked about losing. The Bulldogs only lost three games when Ojulari was in that program. He was asked about the 0-3 start, and what the Giants have to do to rectify the situation.

“I’d say we’ve just got to come in and work and fix the things we’ve got to fix. Just try to come back to the drawing board and look in the mirror and just come back ready to work and fix the things and try to change it next week,” Ojulari said. “Just look yourself in the mirror and see what you can do to help yourself, fix it and come back ready to work for the next opponent.”

Coming out of Georgia, some evaluators were skeptical of Ojulari because he mostly showcased one elite pass-rushing move. He has already shown more than that in three NFL games.

“Everyone in this league is good and athletic. The tackles are bigger, stronger, faster. Everyone is athletic in this league and they can adjust to different things,” Ojulari said. “You basically, really (have) to bring your A-game every single time. Every rep you get, every rush you get, you’ve got to bring your best out there.”

Ojulari has certainly lived up to expectations through three games. He’s facing a Saints team that just lost tackle Terron Armstead to an elbow injury. Let’s see if he can make it four games in a row.