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3 questions facing Rookie DE Owa Odighizuwa

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Long before Owa Odighizuwa was drafted, the UCLA product was being compared to former Giants pass-rushers.

And by then, he was already studying them.

That's why Odighizuwa could have gone on for days and days when asked about the franchise's lineage at the positon on the emotional night that he was selected by Big Blue. It's also part of the reason that he, coaches, executives, pundits, and fans alike think it could be the perfect fit for the future.

But the work has only begun.

With rookie minicamp wrapped up and organized team activities around the corner, here are three questions surrounding the Giants' third-round draft pick:

1. How does he develop on the fly?

Photos of DE Owa Odighizuwa at Giants rookie mini-camp

"Great athlete" were among the first words spoken by general manager Jerry Reese moments after the Giants took Odighizuwa with the 74th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. A top-tier finisher in the 40-yard dash as well as the vertical and broad jumps, Odighizuwa flew off the charts at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. But that raw athleticism often comes with room for development, which we've seen with past Giants as well as those around the league. The key will be guiding him along while not slowing him down. 

"He is going to have to learn," coach Tom Coughlin said after the draft. "He is relatively new to the game. He is going to have to learn the nuances. I just don't want to slow him down while we are teaching him. We will try to anticipate those types of things. He is smart. He has graduated. He has been a captain. He played in a sophisticated system."

2. Where does he fit?

 

In addition to his motor, Odighizuwa stood out because of the versatility that he showed at UCLA, where he played in 51 games with 21 starts and had 136 tackles (85 solo), 12.5 sacks and 24.5 tackles for losses. He will compete alongside Jason Pierre-Paul, who last season had double-digit sacks for the first time since his 2011 breakout campaign, emerging third-year pro Damontre Moore, Kerry Wynn, and veterans George Selvie and Robert Ayers, who can move inside like Odighizuwa. Another player who could do that was former Giant and current Raider Justin Tuck. Odighizuwa knows all about him.

"I know he's a great player who was drafted out of Notre Dame in the (third) round and I know that I was watching him my sophomore year in high school when they were playing New England in the Super Bowl and the Giants' defensive line inspired me and made me want to be a better defensive line with Osi Umenyiora, with Justin Tuck," Odighizuwa said. "But I know Justin Tuck is a great player. He's really, really physical and that's a guy that I try to learn some things from, but I know a lot about the Giants' defensive line. I could go all day with what I know about their defensive line play."

Odighizuwa added: "When I tell you that the Giants' defensive line inspired me as a player, it's no joke. The way they played is really what sparked my thirst for wanting to be better as a d-lineman. I remember in college watching the year Osi Umenyiora had six sacks against the Philadelphia Eagles. I watched his highlights over and over again. I watched his drills that he did with the d-line coach who coaches guys out of Atlanta. There was a video of him on YouTube and I was watching it over and over again. I was doing every drill that he did. The list goes on and on. I was watching Michael Strahan and how he plays. I studied everything about the Giants defensive line. I studied Jason Pierre-Paul the year he went off. They know their defensive line."

3. Can he earn his way on special teams?

 Coughlin is a believer in a rookie needing to earn his spot on the roster by playing on special teams. That's the way, for example, Tuck first made a name for himself. Now Odighizuwa will do the same as he and the late-round draft picks will make up the core of the third phase of the game.

"I wouldn't call him a flier," Reese said. "Justin Tuck was a third-round pick and he ended up being a pretty good player for us. We're hoping that he can be in that same mold to come in and like Justin started out playing a lot on special teams and develop into a really good player. We think this guy can do the same thing."

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