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Giants Now: Azeez Ojulari on 'rookies to watch' list

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Azeez Ojulari makes PFF's rookies to watch list

Pro Football Focus compiled a list of 10 rookies to watch during the preseason this summer, and Giants' second-round pick Azeez Ojulari landed on the list.

As PFF's Sam Monson highlights, "Ojulari had 37 total pressures on just 193 pass rushes in his final season at Georgia, earning a PFF pass-rushing grade of 91.7 and being labeled as 'one of the most advanced edge rushers in the class' in the PFF Draft Guide."

Monson goes on to note Ojulari's "natural ability to rush the passer on the edge with speed, technique and agility" as a skillset that should benefit the Giants greatly in 2021 and beyond.

Ojulari had a dominant campaign for the Georgia Bulldogs in 2020, racking up 8.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss, both of which led the SEC, while his four forced fumbles were tied for the second-most in all of FBS. His 91.7 pass-rushing grade mentioned above was also the highest among all members of the 2020 draft class.

The Giants' rookie linebacker has been garnering plenty of praise lately. Just last week, NFL.com's Lance Zierlein named Ojulari among the top 2021 Defensive Rookie of the Year candidates. Last month, PFF selected the rookie pass rusher as the Giants' X factor this season.

View the top photos from Wednesday's practice at Quest Diagnostics Training Center.

Kadarius Toney 'feeling good' as activities ramp up

The Giants have brought Kadarius Toney along slowly since his activation from the Reserve/COVID-19 list last week, but the rookie wide receiver seems poised to accelerate his training camp activity.

"I feel good. I'm good," Toney said after a light practice today. "You see me out there doing stuff today, so I'm feeling good."

Toney is a young man of few words whom the Giants hope has a big impact on the field this season. The team's first-round draft choice is a multi-dimensional wideout from the University of Florida who can line up in the slot or outside. He could be more heavily involved tomorrow, when the Giants are back in full pads.

"He's doing more and more every day," coach Joe Judge said. "We're pleased what he's doing on the field. He's progressing physically at a nice rate. Right now, we're kind of building toward next week with a lot of these guys. They'll continuously work throughout today's walk-through, tomorrow, and Saturday as well, and see how they feel coming out going on Monday."

Toney said, "I'm still working day by day to get better. … I feel like I'm getting better every day, learning the playbook more day-by-day."

Toney spent his time in COVID isolation studying the Giants' offensive playbook.

"I want to contribute as much as I can to the team, so that's what it takes," he said. "It was pretty tough from like a mental standpoint. But talking to coach Judge every day, talking to the coaches, looking at the playbook and knowing what I can do, having the impact I can have when I come back, it wasn't that bad."

Progress Report: Takeaways from Giants coordinators

The Giants were light on highlights during Thursday's jog-through, but they were heavy on interviews.

In addition to coach Joe Judge, coordinators and position coaches addressed the media as the team enters the heart of training camp. They provided plenty of insight into player and position development. Here is what we learned:

Patrick Graham won't assume anything about the defense based off last year's finish.

After a 1-7 start to 2020, the Giants rallied with four consecutive victories to spark a 5-3 finish. The major reason was the defense finding its footing, which could bode well for the team's 2021 prospects. But after years under Bill Belichick and now Joe Judge, assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham knows the key to success is never assuming one year will carry over to the next.

"It's cliché, but it's true," Graham said. "As soon as the season's over, I've reset, and then it's part of our job to make sure the players know, 'Hey, nothing matters from last year, from the previous year.' So you just try to convey that message to them, and thankfully, we have a good group of guys who understand that. Based on what we've been through so far on the field, we've got a ways to go to improve. I've got a ways to go to improve, so I think they understand. Our offense is doing a pretty good job out there, so we've got ways to improve, and we'll keep working, so nobody really thinks about last year."

And what does he want the identity of the defense to be?

"The same thing that Joe talks about, toughness," he said. "We really want it to be reflective of the communities, the tri-state, New York, however you want to look at it. But like the people here, they're tough, they work hard. I want them to look at us on film, like whether it's over at the stadium or out here at practice, we see our toughness come out. We see us working hard and not loafing around the field – running around the field, that's what I want it to be. Specifically, with the football part of it, playing in good football position, team-first, playing with our hands in front of our eyes, good knee-bend and all that stuff. Again, same stuff that most high school coaches are teaching, it's still the game of football between those white lines and that's what you want it to look like."

Jason Garrett enters Year 2 with playmakers currently sidelined.

In addition to Saquon Barkley, the Giants are currently moving through camp without newcomers Kyle Rudolph and Kenny Golladay. However, offensive coordinator Jason Garrett has faith that their veteran experience will make up for any time missed on the field.

"I go back to the guys. The approach that those guys take, it's outstanding," Garrett said. "They're just true pros. If you watch them out here in practice, if they're not involved with some rehab or something they're right there, they're watching, they're paying attention. Any walk-through reps that they're able to get they try to take advantage of. They're really great in their interaction with their coaches and with their teammates. You can see them growing and we're just excited to get them out there to get the physical reps along with the mental reops they've been getting, but their approach is outstanding."

1-on-1 with Coach Judge as camp gets underway

Check out the video below to watch Head Coach Joe Judge sit down with Super Bowl champion and Giants legend Shaun O'Hara about the state of the team at training camp.

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