The New York Giants believe they got a steal in this year’s NFL draft when Georgia linebacker Azeez Ojulari fell to them at No. 50 in the second round.
Being a former Georgia Bulldog has helped Ojulari fit in early here at training camp and the familiarity of all of the former Georgia and SEC coaches in the building has helped him get a leg up.
“The real test will be when the pads come on, but I’d say in terms of his mental understanding of the system and schemes, he’s made progress in that,” head coach Joe Judge said on Monday. “There’s some similarities to the defense with what he played in college. It’s not the same, but there’s similarities and I think that gives him a little bit of a jump verbiage-wise or scheme understanding-wise. It’s something that he can relate to, something he’s done in the past.
“The biggest thing for Azeez right now is he’s really shown us a lot of jumps in how he came in in shape in training camp. When we saw him in the spring, like all rookies, I tell you all the time, they come in, they’re not ready to go. That was evident with the way some of those guys handled the conditioning throughout practice in the spring. You watch him out there throughout the duration of practice of maintaining his conditioning level, conditioning at the end of practice, where he is in the pack as far as running. He’s not towards the back, he’s getting up there towards the front, so the demonstration of how he’s working and got himself in physical shape to come in has helped him to this point.”
That’s good news for the Giants and good news for Ojulari, who allegedly fell out of the first round due to a rumor that a old knee injury he sustained in high school had reared its ugly head. He appears to be just fine and maybe the Giants did get that steal after all.
On Tuesday, the Giants practice in pads and Judge will get a clearer picture of Ojulari and the others. Ojulari himself can’t wait.
“The last time I put on pads was January 1, Peach Bowl game in Atlanta. That was the last time,” Ojulari told reporters on Monday.
“Oh yeah, definitely,” Ojulari said when asked if he missed hitting people. “That’s part of the game. You gotta love it. You play defense, you gotta hit people. It’s part of the game and can’t wait to do it.”
As stated by Judge above, Ojulari has come to camp in top physical shape and it’s no wonder he and former college teammate Andrew Thomas and tight end Evan Engram are standing out this summer.
“I just came in the offseason every day, no days off. Just kept running, working out every day. I was with Andrew Thomas and Evan Engram in Pinnacle, so that was great work for me just keeping my body in shape and just going at it every day,” he said.
Ojulari also can’t wait to face off against his ex-roommate Thomas, who he believes is going to right the ship on his career after a near disastrous rookie season.
“For sure. Big leap now, definitely. For sure. He’s a dog,” he said.