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Giants Now: Azeez Ojulari among DROY candidates

GIANTSNOW_HEADLINE_7.30 ranks Azeez Ojulari among top DROY candidates

The Giants received high praise from experts for their 2021 draft haul as they emerged from the weekend with a collection of both promising players and future draft picks.

A big part of that was the team's trade in the second round, moving down eight slots while acquiring the Miami Dolphins' 2022 third-round pick. The Giants then selected Georgia linebacker Azeez Ojulari, one of the top pass rushers in the draft class, with the No. 50 pick.'s Lance Zierlein ranked his top 10 Defensive Rookie of the Year candidates for the 2021 season this week, and the Giants' second-round pick landed at No. 9.

As Zierlein writes, "The tape can be a little uneven at times, but his flashes are really eye-catching. Georgia did so much rotating along their defensive front that I didn't always feel like he was able to get into a groove. He'll be on the field full-time for the Giants, and if the coaches can cultivate those flashes into a skilled rush, Ojulari will be a legitimate contender out of this group."

Ojulari led the SEC with 8.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss last season, and his four forced fumbles were tied for the second-most in all of FBS. The former Georgia Bulldog also earned a 91.7 pass rushing grade from Pro Football Focus, the highest out of every member of the 2021 draft class, while his 35 quarterback pressures led his team.

Earlier this month, Pro Football Focus named Ojulari as the Giants' X factor this season. Back in May, CBS Sports ranked him No. 2 on its list of Defensive Rookie of the Year candidates.

View must-see photos of the Giants on the practice field from Day 2 of training camp on Thursday.

Xavier McKinney looks to build off strong 2020 finish

Xavier McKinney's truncated debut season has left him conflicted.

"It feels like year two, obviously it's year two, but I still feel like I'm a rookie, just because I haven't played a lot of games yet," McKinney said after the Giants' training camp practice today. "I still got a lot of learn, a lot to improve on, so I just take it one day at a time to improve and get better."

McKinney is indeed a second-year pro and both he and the Giants are confident it will be a productive season. That was the expectation last year, when McKinney was the team's second-round draft choice, No. 36 overall. The former University of Alabama standout had a good chance to be an opening day starting safety before suffering a fractured foot in camp. He underwent surgery and missed the season's first 10 games.

"You genuinely feel bad for any player when they get hurt," coach Joe Judge said. "We all want to make sure we all put our players at every position to be safe and stay on the field. Now, I know how much it means to him. He's a guy that definitely loves the game. He comes at it and works extremely hard. He's very attentive in the meetings. He's a great communicator with us in terms of what he does and doesn't understand and what he needs help with. He was really having a good day of practice when he got hurt."

Notebook: Dexter Lawrence expects more from himself

Dexter Lawrence is listed as a 6-4, 342-pounder on the Giants' roster, so it's no surprise he's usually not impressed by a teammate's size. But Danny Shelton, who checks in at 6-2 and 345 pounds, is the rare person who can make Lawrence feel small.

"A little bit," Lawrence admitted after a training camp practice today. "He's a massive dude, but good personality. He fits right in. I'm excited to be able to work with him."

Entering his third year, Lawrence trained this offseason with neither losing nor gaining weight as a goal.

"I was just trying to maintain and shape my body," he said. "It's kind of like, I'm to the point that I'm going to be big all my life. Just make it look good … and keep my sexy on."

The defensive line has a different vibe in this camp. Gone is Dalvin Tomlinson, who started every game the last four years and in 2020 was a captain and the Giants' Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee. He was enormously popular within the organization. But the Giants could not fit him under the salary cap and still address other needs, so Tomlinson signed with the Minnesota Vikings.

They compensated for the loss by adding Shelton, one of the NFL's most consistent run-stopping linemen. With him in the middle of the front, the Giants could improve their run defense, which ranked 10th in the NFL last season, allowing 111.4 yards a game.

"Honestly, the group in whole, we all just bond and click," Lawrence said. "We can coach each other. We can pick on each other. There's no hard feelings with anything because everybody is genuine. Like I said, he fits right in. He came in and fit right in. He even brought some character to the room, so it's not a lot of – it's not like an intruder came. It's kind of like, it just fit like a puzzle was put in."

🎥 Highlights (7/29): Top plays from practice

Check out the video below to view the top plays from Day 2 of Giants training camp at Quest Diagnostics Training Center.

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