The New York Giants used their second-round pick on what many have perceived as a clear-cut steal in Georgia edge rusher Azeez Ojulari. A disruptive force in SEC opponents’ backfield for his three seasons with the Bulldogs, Ojulari actually ranked ahead of Kadarius Toney — Big Blue’s first-round pick — on many draft experts’ big boards and readily hovered around the top spot in their positional rankings.
Yet, while Ojulari’s skill set is extremely tantalizing, production from a first-year pass rusher is no sure thing. For instance, in 2020 only one rookie defender exceeded 4.0 sacks on the season — No. 2 overall selection Chase Young with 7.5 sacks. This could be extremely worrisome for a Giants team whose returning leading sackers from the edge position are Carter Coughlin and Lorenzo Carter, each of whom collected just 1.0 sack apiece.
The team did add ex-Minnesota Vikings pass rusher Ifeadi Odenigbo in free agency, who, while coming off a down season (3.5 sacks), did record 7.0 sacks just two years ago. Now the Giants are being called upon to reunite Odenigbo with his former bookend from his Minneapolis days.
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Giants Floated as Destination for Everson Griffen
With the first wave of free agency in the books and the draft officially wrapped, proven veteran commodities such as four-time Pro Bowler Everson Griffen will begin to gauge interest on the open market. Bleacher Reports Kristopher Knox believes it would be in the Giants’ best interest to bite, urging the team to pursue the veteran defender.
“Even though New York did draft Ojulari, it never hurts to have pass-rushing depth on the edge. This is especially true for the Giants, who saw 11.5 of their 40 sacks in 2020 come from defensive tackle Leonard Williams,” Knox wrote. “New York would be wise to complement Williams with more pressure off the edge, and Everson Griffen is a player who could provide it.”
“Signing Griffen would likely be a short-term move for the Giants, but it could provide defensive coordinator Patrick Graham with another pass-rushing presence while he develops Ojulari as a more long-term solution,” he added.
Should Giants Side With Production Over Youth?
While aging, Griffen is a player who can still provide adequate pressure off the edge. Boasting a career 80.5 sacks, the USC product bounced around multiple teams last season, serving as a common presence in opponents’ backfields at each stop.
“Though Griffen is 33, he showed he still has something in the proverbial tank last season — his first away from the Minnesota Vikings,” Knox noted. “In 14 games between the Cowboys and Detroit Lions, he amassed six sacks 33 total tackles and 23 quarterback pressures… Griffen was a Pro Bowler as recently as the 2019 season.”
The Giants’ outside linebacker/defensive end spot, while not overflowing with production, is getting a tad bit crowded. Along with the additions of Ojulari and Odenigbo, the team also selected Northern Iowa’s Elerson Smith with their fourth-round pick, as well as inking former second-round pick Ryan Anderson to a one-year prove-it deal. Add in the aforementioned Lorenzo Carter and Carter Coughlin, as well as youngster Cam Brown and a healthy Oshane Ximines, and finding snaps for a player of Griffen’s stature could prove to be quite the headache.
At the same time, the Giants’ current laundry list of edge defenders is made up of either unproven commodities or underperforming draft picks. The team could continue to push forward with their youth movement on the edge — a direction they opted for last season. On the other hand, albeit at the expense of some intriguing prospects, the team could instead opt for near-guaranteed production from a player in Griffen, who is just one season removed from a Pro Bowl appearance.