Azeez Ojulari

Kayvon Thibodeaux To Make Giants Debut

The Giants managed to win their first two games without both their starting outside linebackers. They will have an improved defensive lineup against the Cowboys on Monday night.

Azeez Ojulari and No. 5 overall pick Kayvon Thibodeaux are active for the Giants. This comes after Thibodeaux managed three limited practices leading up to the NFC East matchup. An MCL sprain sustained during the preseason led to Thibodeaux not beginning his Giants regular-season run on time. Leonard Williams, who suffered an MCL sprain in Week 2, is inactive.

A year ago, Thibodeaux was viewed as a possible No. 1 overall pick. The Oregon pass rusher’s stock dipped slightly during the pre-draft period, leading to rumors he could endure a bit of a draft-night fall. The Giants prevented that from happening, selecting him with the first of their two first-round choices. The Thibodeaux-Ojulari pairing will be, investment-wise, easily the team’s top edge-rushing duo since Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon.

After trading JPP in 2018 and Vernon in 2019, the Giants took an unusually minimalistic approach at this premium position. The team passed on using premium draft capital on the spot in 2019 or 2020, despite an apparent glaring need, and saw its edge production suffer during Markus Golden‘s abbreviated 2020 slate (before an in-season trade sent him back to Arizona). Ojulari, however, made an impact as a rookie second-rounder last season, registering eight sacks. Ojulari, who missed time with a calf injury, will now team with one of the highest-profile defensive investments in Giants history.

Thibodeaux, who will not turn 22 until December, posted 19 sacks in three Ducks seasons. Attitude- and work ethic-based concerns led to the slight draft drop, below edges Travon Walker and Aidan Hutchinson. The 6-foot-5 outside linebacker will have a chance to prove himself as a pro beginning in a nationally televised spot. The Giants had used former third-round pick Oshane Ximines and ex-Don Martindale Ravens charge Jihad Ward as their edge starters over the first two weeks.

Giants LB Azeez Ojulari Expects To Play Monday Night

It sounds like Azeez Ojulari will make his season debut on Monday night. The Giants linebacker told reporters that he’ll play against the Cowboys, per Paul Schwartz of the New York Post (on Twitter).

The 2021 second-round pick injured his calf during a practice in late August. The team avoided placing him on injured reserve with the hope that he’d return within the first four games. It sounds like the gamble worked out, as Ojulari will have ultimately missed only a pair of games.

Ojulari had a productive rookie season in New York, finishing with 49 tackles, eight sacks, and 13 QB hits. Pro Football Focus graded him as a below-average edge defender, but despite an especially low pass-rushing score, he still managed to put up solid numbers for a rookie.

The 22-year-old won’t be the only pass rusher aiming to take the field this weekend. Kayvon Thibodeaux is hoping to make his NFL debut on Monday after nursing a knee injury suffered during the preseason.

“Thibs and Azeez, they’re getting close,” coach Brian Daboll told reporters (via Michael Eisen of the team’s website). “They’re going to take some team reps today. I think they took a little bit last week, but they’re going to take more this week. They’re getting close, so we’ll see with them. I’d say they’re still day-to-day even though they’re on the close side.”

When the two players return, Jihad Ward and Oshane Ximines will likely be demoted to secondary roles on the edge.

Giants’ Kayvon Thibodeaux Out For Week 1

The Giants will be shorthanded in the edge rush department when they begin the season against the Titans this afternoon. Rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux is among the team’s inactives (Twitter link via Dan Salomone of the team’s website). 

The No. 5 pick in this year’s draft, Thibodeaux suffered an MCL sprain during the preseason, which came with a recovery timeline of at least three weeks. That made a Week 1 debut possible, but it was always more likely that the Giants would tread carefully with their highly-touted rookie.

The Oregon product was considered a candidate to fall down the board at times during the pre-draft process, but was the third edge rusher to hear his name called. His final season with the Ducks took him out of the conversation to go No. 1 overall, but the Giants were pleased to land the 6-5, 250-pounder and envision a versatile role for him. New York ranked 22nd last season in sacks, and Thibodeaux will likely go a long way in determining whether or not the team can improve in 2022.

Fellow projected starter Azeez Ojulari will also be sidelined, as had been expected in the build-up to today’s game. The 2021 second-rounder had a productive rookie campaign with eight sacks and 49 total stops, so his absence will be exacerbated by that of Thibodeaux and, to a lesser extent, fellow rookie Darrian Beavers. The Giants have Oshane Ximines, Tomon Fox and practice squad elevation Quincy Roche to lead their pass rush.

Giants Activate LB Azeez Ojulari

Giants linebacker Azeez Ojulari has been activated off the club’s NFI list, per Michael Eisen of the team’s official website. Ojulari practiced with the team on Sunday, the first time he has done so since camp opened late last month.

The 2021 second-rounder had been dealing with a hamstring injury, so his return to the field is a welcome sight for an outfit that is looking to start emerging from a rebuild. As a rookie, Ojulari led the team with eight sacks, which represented a franchise record for first-year players. He played in all 17 of New York’s games, starting 13 of them. His 58.3 overall grade and 56.9 pass rushing grade from Pro Football Focus were suboptimal, but his surface-level stats — which also included 13 quarterback hits — show plenty of potential.

Between Ojulari, Leonard Williams, and first-round rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux, the Giants have the foundation of a potentially formidable pass rush. In addition to Thibodeaux, the team also added Jihad Ward in free agency this year and invested a fourth-round pick in Elerson Smith. 2019 third-rounder Oshane Ximines remains on the roster, along with 2021 waiver claim Quincy Roche.

Big Blue also made a series of cuts on Sunday, parting ways with DB Michael Jacquet, G Josh Rivas, and S Jarrod Wilson. Wilson spent the first five years of his career with the Jaguars, the last two of which saw him operate as a full-time starter at safety. He saw action in nine games (three starts) last season, which he split between the Jets and 49ers. The veteran defensive back just signed with the Giants earlier this month.

Jacquet, who signed with the Eagles as a UDFA in 2020, has seen action in eight games (two starts) between Philadelphia and Jacksonville over the past two seasons. The Giants had signed Rivas, a Kansas State product, as part of their own UDFA class earlier this year.

Minor NFL Transactions: 7/26/22

Today’s minor NFL transactions, including a handful of notable names landing on the physically unable to perform list and the non-football injury list as teams open up camp:

Arizona Cardinals

Chicago Bears

Cleveland Browns

Denver Broncos

Green Bay Packers

Indianapolis Colts

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Miami Dolphins

  • Released with NFI designation: WR Cody Core

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Washington Commanders

NFC Rumors: Giants, Saints, Adams, Bears

Part of 2019’s Odell Beckham Jr. trade, Jabrill Peppers is going into his fifth-year option season. However, the Giants‘ three-year, $31MM extension for Logan Ryan back in December may well have signaled they are OK moving on from the former first-round pick after this season, Dan Duggan of The Athletic writes (subscription required). The Giants signed Ryan shortly after Xavier McKinney suffered a broken foot and extended him toward the end of the year. By season’s end, the team had Ryan, Peppers and McKinney available. Ryan and McKinney are signed through 2023, though Ryan has no guarantees beyond this year. While Peppers (25 starts as a Giant) would attract interest as a 2022 free agent, his role and performance this season will go a long way toward determining his long-term value.

Of the players that changed teams in that 2019 deal, Peppers, Beckham and Dexter Lawrence — the first-round pick the Browns sent to the Giants — remain with their teams. Kevin Zeitler and Olivier Vernon are not. With Beckham’s long-term status in Cleveland uncertain and Peppers in a contract year, Lawrence may be the only holdover from this trade come 2022. Here is the latest from the NFC:

  • Despite Lorenzo Carter going down with an Achilles tear in October, the Giants are prepared to reinstall him as a starter, Duggan notes. Carter returned for the Giants’ offseason program. The former third-round pick out of Georgia has 9.5 career sacks and, like Peppers, is entering a contract year. The Giants have not been especially aggressive at outside linebacker during Dave Gettleman‘s GM tenure, but they did use a second-round choice this year on USC’s Azeez Ojulari. He, 2019 third-rounder Oshane Ximines and fourth-round rookie Elerson Smith are in the mix to start opposite Carter, per Duggan. The Giants added veterans Ryan Anderson and Ifeadi Odenigbo as well, but they appear to be competing for rotational work.
  • Marcus Williams is one of this year’s seven remaining franchise-tagged players. The Saints surprised most when they created cap space to tag the talented safety, but if they cannot complete an extension by July 15, they should not be expected to entertain a second tag in 2022, Joel Corry of CBS Sports writes. Marshon Lattimore playing this season on his fifth-year option would make him a higher-priority free agent come March, and whoever wins New Orleans’ quarterback job — set to be a Jameis WinstonTaysom Hill competition — could fall into the 2022 tag mix as well.
  • One factor complicating the SeahawksJamal Adams talks: the Pro Bowl safety wanting not only to become the highest-paid player at the position but seeking to end up on his own financial tier. Adams does not want to be viewed as a pure safety, and thus be confined to the position’s salary range, Corry adds. Adams does not rate as a top-tier coverage safety, but he is a historically productive pass rusher for the position and is used in myriad capacities. With Seattle having traded two first-rounders for him, a deal is expected to come to fruition soon.
  • The Bears made a couple of changes to their scouting staff. They promoted Jeff King to the pro scouting director post. King joined the team as a pro scout in 2016. The former NFL tight end interviewed for the Panthers’ assistant GM job in May. Chicago also promoted Sam Summerville from area scout to national scout. The Fritz Pollard Alliance named Summerville, a Bears scout since 2012, as its NFC scout of the year in 2019.

Giants Sign Second-Round DE Azeez Ojulari

The Giants have locked up their second-round pick. Edge rusher Azeez Ojulari has officially signed his rookie contract, the team announced today. They also announced they’ve signed sixth-round running back Gary Brightwell and sixth-round cornerback Rodarius Williams.

Ojulari was expected by many to be a first-rounder, but medical red flags dropped him to 50th overall. If he can stay healthy, the Giants might end up getting a total steal. His upside is sky-high, as he’s coming off a season where he led the SEC in sacks at the age of 20. The Georgia product won’t turn 21 until next month.

Some analysts thought he was the most talented edge rusher in the draft when he first declared back in January. He’s got good size and explosiveness and finished with 9.5 sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss, and four forced fumbles in only 10 games in 2020. He should get plenty of playing time as a rookie.

Giants Leaning Toward Edge Rusher In Round 1?

Having needed an edge rusher for a few years now, the Giants may be set to address this need with their top offseason resource.

They have done a lot of work on the top edge defenders in this year’s draft, and sources informed SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano the current sense is this will be the direction the team takes with its No. 11 overall pick. The Giants have spent big to fill needs at wide receiver and cornerback, in adding Kenny Golladay and Adoree’ Jackson, but have lacked a long-term, starter-caliber edge rusher since trading Olivier Vernon in 2019.

The Giants could be faced with a major decision — not exactly uncommon for them in recent drafts — if Alabama wide receiver prospects DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle remain on the board. Five quarterbacks may well go in the top 10, pushing down this offense-heavy draft’s top non-QB talents. The Giants have Golladay, Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton penciled in as their top three receivers, but it should not be considered a lock the team would pass on potential value here in one of the ex-Crimson Tide stars.

New York is believed to be high on Michigan’s Kwity Paye and Georgia’s Azeez Ojulari, Vacchiano adds. The former ranks as Scouts Inc.’s top draft’s top pass-rushing prospect. With Ojulari ranked outside the top 20 overall, it may be difficult to envision the Giants going in that direction over a higher-value player at 11. Mel Kiper Jr.’s most recent mock has the Giants taking Waddle. A trade-down maneuver seems unlikely, given that GM Dave Gettleman‘s streak of never trading down has now lasted eight drafts — five in Carolina, three with New York.

Should the Giants stay at 11, they are also high on Northwestern tackle Rashawn Slater, per Vacchiano. The Giants went tackle at No. 4 overall last year and used a third-round pick on tackle Matt Peart. Nate Solder is also in line to return.

The Giants pursued Leonard Floyd, but he re-signed with the Rams. They passed on the rest of the 2020 pass rusher lot, which was rather crowded for the big-ticket position, and only kept Markus Golden via the rarely used UFA tender last year. The Giants waited until Round 7 to draft a pass rusher in 2020 and have since traded Golden and let 2020 signing Kyler Fackrell sign with the Chargers.

Gettleman passed on edge talent Josh Allen in 2019, drafting Daniel Jones instead and lost out on Chase Young thanks to a late-season win over Washington in 2019. The Giants’ need at outside linebacker has persisted, though the emergence of Leonard Williams as a sack artist may lessen the desperation at this spot to some degree.

Georgia’s Azeez Ojulari, TCU’s Tre’von Moehrig Declare For Draft

Several high-profile collegiate prospects declared for the 2021 NFL draft yesterday. Per Adam Rittenberg of ESPN.com, Georgia edge defender Azeez Ojulari is foregoing his final two years of college eligibility and will enter the draft, and TCU safety Tre’von Moehrig announced on Twitter that he is also turning pro.

Ojulari is arguably the best pass rusher in the draft, and most mocks have him going off the board in the first round. He has led the Bulldogs in sacks in each of the past two seasons, and he ended the 2020 season with 9.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, and 12.5 tackles for loss. He ended his college career on a high note, having piled up three sacks and two forced fumbles in Georgia’s Peach Bowl victory over Cincinnati. He took home defensive MVP honors for the game and was a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award, which goes to the nation’s top defensive player.

Ojulari is lauded for the series of pass rush moves that he has already developed, which will serve as a strong foundation for his future in the pros. His technique, along with his size and explosiveness, make him an especially intriguing prospect, and the Broncos, Browns, and Vikings profile as possible landing spots.

Moehrig, meanwhile, is a two-time first-team All-Big 12 selection, and many pundits — like ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. — consider him to be the best safety in the 2021 class. He is a definite playmaker, having recorded nine takeaways over the past two seasons, and is a finalist for the Thorpe Award, which goes to the nation’s top defensive back. He is at his best when asked to play a single-high, “centerfielder” role.