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Giants counting on Owa to beef up D-Line rotation

Posted May 26, 2016

DE Owa Odighizuwa chats with Giants.com about his adjustments for his second year and what he hopes to accomplish:

Owa Odighizuwa is in good company.

He’s learning from Jason Pierre-Paul, who learned from Justin Tuck, who learned from Osi Umenyiora, who learned from Michael Strahan.

After an injury-plagued rookie season, Odighizuwa, the Giants’ third-round draft choice in 2015, enters his second year trying to become another link in the chain of defensive ends that defined two Super Bowl runs. His career may have not started on the trajectory that he or the team wanted, but Odighizuwa used his time off the field wisely.

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“I learned pass rush, honestly,” said Odighizuwa, who was placed on injured reserve/designated for return in November but never did make it back to the field. “When I got drafted here, the Giants saw that I’m a great athlete but I wasn’t quite refined as a pass rusher. And obviously they have a great tradition here, so when I got in, I learned a lot from coach [former defensive line coach Robert] Nunn, from the guys playing in front of me. When I was sitting out and didn’t get to play, that’s all I worked on in my mind -- just visualizing pass rush, watching a lot of film, taking coaching points and taking that into the offseason.”

The UCLA product is part of a band that now also includes Olivier Vernon, one of the most coveted free agents this past March after recording 7.5 sacks and 36 quarterback hits for the Dolphins last season.

“My goal is to definitely be part of that rotation,” Odighizuwa said. “Obviously I want to learn a lot from JPP and OV and those guys in front of me, and my goal is to be the third man in that rotation and I want to be a contributor in that respect. I just don’t want to be out there; I want to be productive. I want to get after the quarterback this year as many times as possible, and I’m very confident about that. I make no secrets about it, man, I want sacks. I want to hit the quarterback. I want to make plays this year.”

The Giants need him -- and the unit -- to do just that.

The team ranked No. 30 in sacks last season with 23, down from 47 the year before. In addition to Vernon, the Giants signed 350-pound defensive tackle Damon Harrison to fortify the interior alongside Johnathan Hankins, who returns for his fourth season after suffering a season-ending injury in Week 9 of last year.

The group is now led by defensive line coach Patrick Graham and assistant Jeff Zgonina, a 17-year veteran tackle and Super Bowl XXXIV champion. Both were hired in February by first-year head coach Ben McAdoo.

“I’m very excited,” Odighizuwa said. “I think we’ve got some guys -- obviously OV, Snacks, we got JPP back and I’m healthy. So I’m looking forward to being part of that rotation, showing guys what I bring to the table. I think if we just keep gelling together, taking this process for what it is, taking a step every day, I’m very excited about what we can do as a group. Hank’s in there, and he’s shown he’s a great pass rusher. So I’m just excited about our group.”