The New York Giants struck gold with the signing of Blake Martinez last offseason. In his first season in East Rutherford, the Stanford product solidified the G-Men’s linebacking corps, finishing third in the NFL with 153 tackles. Fast forward to this offseason, and the Giants may have hit yet another home run at the linebacker position — this time at outside linebacker — with the perceived draft steal of second-rounder Azeez Ojulari.
While it’s still extremely early to tell what the Giants truly have in the reigning Second-team All-SEC, the early returns at Giants OTAs have Martinez excited about what the future has to hold.
“He’s a freaky looking player,” Martinez told reporters of Ojulari. “Just watching him today, he made some great plays out there in practice, showed some athleticism, things like that. Once again, it’s OTAs, so you’ve got to wait until we put the pads on, things like that. So far I think he’s done really well.”
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Drafting Ojulari Labeled Giants’ ‘Smartest Move’ of Offseason
The 6-foot-2-inch, 249-pound Ojulari is the type of quick-twitch athlete that the Giants’ defense has desperately missed off the edge in recent years. This past season, Kyler Fackrell led all Giants edge rushers with a mere 4.0 sacks. Yet, with both his and Jabaal Sheard’s exit this offseason, the team’s returning sack leaders at the position are Carter Coughlin and Lorenzo Carter, who mustered up just 2.0 sacks combined in 2020.
The team did go out and add some intriguing pieces in former Viking Ifeadi Odenigbo and ex-second-rounder Ryan Anderson in free agency. However, it was the selection of Ojulari that Bleacher Report’s Maurice Moton believes will pay the most dividends, calling the decision New York’s “smartest move” of the offseason.
“The Giants will benefit from this gamble,” Moton wrote. “If Ojulari goes through the 2021 campaign without any issues, he’s a candidate to log double-digit sacks. The 6’2″, 249-pounder can beat tackles with speed and great use of his hands on the edge. The rookie’s short-area quickness, coupled with his balance, allows him to stay in position for a sack on stunts. With Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence on the interior of the defensive line, they’ll open lanes for Ojulari to squeeze through and collapse the pocket. He’s a Day 2 pick who should make an immediate impact in Year 1.”
Lorenzo Carter Returns
One of the Giants’ most hyped players from last offseason, Carter has become somewhat of an afterthought in the Giants’ linebacker/pass rush rotation. The former Georgia Bulldog made headlines by dominating last year’s Blue and White intrasquad scrimmage, collecting four sacks and a forced fumble.
While Carter wasn’t able to carry that production over to the regular season, he became a regular fixture in Patrick Graham’s defensive scheme, playing 98% of the team’s defensive snaps over each of the first two games and 81%-plus in three of the first four. Unfortunately, Carter suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in Week 5, prematurely ending his 2020 campaign.
The 25-year-old has since been working tirelessly over recent months to regain his pre-injury form, earning the respect of Martinez along the way.
“It’s awesome seeing a guy come back from an injury like that. It’s been really cool. Excited for him,” Martinez said of Carter. “I know he’s put in a ton of work this off-season getting ready to go. He’s just doing his thing out there.”
As a carry-over from the previous regime, Carter will have an uphill battle earning a significant role along a revamped edge group for the Giants. With that said, we wouldn’t bet against him, as he’s still arguably the most talented athlete aside from Ojulari at the position, and quite possibly the most versatile.
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