Tabs Giants Pass-Rusher as Potential First-Time Pro Bowler

Azeez Ojulari

Getty/NFL New York Giants linebacker Azeez Ojulari had 8.0 sacks as a rookie.

The New York Giants produced a grand total of zero Pro Bowlers last season, joining the New York Jets, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Denver Broncos and Detroit Lions as the only teams to be completely shut out of the annual all-star showcase.

If the Giants want to have a representative in the next Pro Bowl, they will need a young player to step up in 2022. Nick Shook of recently compiled a list of potential first-time Pro Bowlers from all 32 teams, and his selection for the Giants was second-year pass rusher Azeez Ojulari.

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Here’s what Shook wrote about Ojulari for

Ojulari stormed out of the gate in his first season, recording a sack in each of his first three games, and set a new single-game, career-high mark with 2.5 sacks in New York’s Week 7 win over Carolina. The rookie wall hit him, though, with Ojulari matching that total in his remaining games and finishing with eight sacks on the year. Ojulari enters Year 2 with a top talent — first-round choice Kayvon Thibodeaux — rushing opposite him, which should make the going a little easier for him. Defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale isn’t afraid to turn up the heat, either, placing Ojulari on a course for greater success in 2022.

Ojulari, 22, was a second-round pick out of Georgia in last year’s draft. The 6-foot-2, 249-pound edge defender made an immediate impact by playing in all 17 games as a rookie and starting 13 of them. In addition to his 8.0 sacks, he also exceeded expectations by recording 13 QB hits, two defended passes and a forced fumble.

Here are all eight of Ojulari’s rookie year sacks, courtesy of Nick Falato on Twitter:

According to Pro Football Focus, Ojulari had 42 total pressures that did not make the NFL’s official stat book in 2021. He graded out as a slightly better run defender (62.5) than pass rusher (56.9) at PFF.

Ojulari plays with a great motor. One of his 49 tackles on the season was an underrated hustle play that helped the Giants secure a 23-16 win over the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 9.

If Ojulari can avoid a sophomore slump and record double-digit sacks in 2022, he’ll have a good chance to get some Pro Bowl recognition.

Azeez Ojulari: ‘There’s More to Do’ After Big Rookie Season

Back in May, Ojulari was asked to reflect on his rookie season and share his goals for Year 2.

“Nah, there’s definitely more to do for sure,” Ojulari said, via GiantsTV on Twitter. “The season didn’t go how we wanted it to go. It’s a team game, so you gotta come out there and try to get better every day.”

Ojulari has the professional mentality needed to make a Pro Bowl leap this season, but he’s not the only player on the roster with that kind of potential.

Other Giants Who Could Be First-Time Pro Bowlers

One defensive player with just as much Pro Bowl potential (if not more) as Ojulari is Giants safety Xavier McKinney. He had five interceptions last season and was the team’s highest graded player (75.4) at Pro Football Focus. Another candidate is Andrew Thomas, who’s now locked in as the franchise left tackle.

If the Giants look like a completely different team under new head coach Brian Daboll and general manager Joe Schoen, two others who could make the Pro Bowl are outside linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux and offensive tackle Evan Neal. They’re both rookies in 2022, but they were top-10 draft picks and each project to play a major role.

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