The New York Giants pulled the trigger on two pass rushers in last week’s NFL draft, selecting Georgia’s Azeez Ojulari in the second round and Northern Iowa’s Elerson Smith in the fourth. Both rookies are expected to man pivotal roles to varying degrees along the Giants’ front seven moving forward.
Now it appears there’s another promising first-year pass rusher who may be vying for snaps on the edge of Big Blue’s defense come the start of 2021.
Dave Gettleman’s undrafted free agency haul is certainly not nearly as deep, nor as star-studded as his free agency and draft classes from this summer. Thus far the team has added just three undrafted free agents; offensive linemen Brett Heggie of Florida (per Logan Brown Sports Agency) and Jake Burton of UCLA (per Eric Edholm of Yahoo Sports), as well as Georgia Southern edge Raymond Johnson III.
Of course, all three players will have an uphill battle to make the roster. With that said, Johnson’s knack for making disruptive plays in opponents’ backfields gives him a fighter’s chance at a position group desperate for production.
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Johnson Ranked Within PFF’s Top 40 CFB Players of 2020
While Johnson may have not heard his name called during the 2021 NFL Draft, he still arrives in East Rutherford with quite the collegiate resume. Over his four seasons at Georgia Southern, the 6-foot-3-inch, 270-pound Johnson amassed 150 tackles, 16.5 sacks, a whopping 36 tackles for loss, six fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and five passes defended.
A three-time All-Sun Belt First-Team selection, Johnson was one of college football’s most disruptive forces in 2020, recording 13.5 tackles for loss (tied for eighth-most in the FBS) and 5.0 sacks (eighth-most in his conference). Continuously flaunting two-way traits as both a pass rusher and a run defender, Johnson’s efforts this past season were enough to slot him as the No. 35 best player in all of college football, per Pro Football Focus’ 101 Best Players list.
Johnson has been an impact player along Georgia Southern’s defensive line since he first stepped foot on the field for the program as a freshman in 2017, and his 2020 campaign was his best season yet. The defensive end owned the highest PFF grade at his position in the entire FBS (91.9). Johnson was also the only player to see at least 100 snaps against the run and as a pass-rusher while recording a grade above 85.0 in each facet. And he easily accomplished that, earning grades above 89.0 in both areas.
Giants’ Reworked Pass Rush Unit
The Giants have certainly made waves this offseason loading up on offensive weapons, most notably inking free agent Kenny Golladay to a $72 million deal and using their first-round selection on all-purpose maven Kadarius Toney.
Yet, they’ve also — in a far quieter manner — taken steps to overhaul their lacking pass rush on the defensive side of the football. Of course, re-upping sack leader Leonard Williams was the most notable move along the front-seven this summer. However, they’ve also addressed a vastly lacking edge position which amassed just 9.5 sacks combined in 2020 — 4.0 sacks of which came from Kyler Fackrell, who signed with the Los Angeles Chargers this offseason.
We’ve already touched on the draft selections of both Ojulari and Smith, two intriguing prospects. As for free agency, the G-Men went out and added former Viking Ifeadi Odenigbo, who over the past two seasons has collected 10.5 sacks. They also took a flyer on Ryan Anderson, a former second-round pick of NFC East rival, the Washington Football Team.
Add in developing youngsters Carter Coughlin and Cam Brown, as well as a healthy Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines, and suddenly the Giants’ once paper-thin pass rush has a chance to be one of the team’s deepest position groups.
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