EAST RUTHEFORD, N.J. – Owa Odighizuwa is hopeful this is the week he becomes the last active member of the Giants' 2015 draft class to play in a regular-season game.
Odighizuwa, the defensive end from UCLA selected in the third round, missed the first three games with a foot injury. But he has practiced this week and believes he will be in uniform when the Giants visit the Bills Sunday in Buffalo.
"Those past three weeks, I knew I wasn't going to be able to play," Odighizuwa said today. "They were trying to get me back right, get healthy and things like that. It's different this week, actually practicing, finishing every rep, and everything like that pain free. I'm very excited about how I'm progressing and where I'm going."
So is defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who is eager to see his rookie end on the field.
"The first thing (he can give us) is a set of fresh legs, because, really, when you watch him out at practice, there's a difference," Spagnuolo said. "He hasn't been out there, he's well-rested. But we're going to have to live with some growing pains. We can see that already in practice, because he's not up to speed with some of the things we've been doing since he's been out. He's got some juice, I think he's a strong edge player, I think he can play tight ends well. So I hope that helps us in the run defense and certainly when we get to a throwing down, some of those third downs, I'm hopeful, we're all hopeful, that he can bring something to the pass rush."
The Giants can use someone with Odighizuwa's skill set. They have three sacks in three games, two by defensive linemen – Robert Ayers and Cullen Jenkins. Odighizuwa had 6.0 sacks in his final collegiate season and 12.5 in his career. He didn't have one in the preseason, but he played with great energy and demonstrated an ability to pressure the passer.
"I just have to be complete," Odighizuwa said. "Whatever situation they put me in, I have to play at a high level and I have to go in there and produce. That's my goal, personally. When I step on the field, I want to be productive for this team and what they need me to do, so whatever it is. If it's pass rush situations, run situations, I really want to be effective and make plays for the team."
Odighizuwa is the only eligible player from this year's draft class that hasn't had an opportunity to do that. First- and second-round choices Ereck Flowers and Landon Collins are starting at left tackle and free safety, respectively. Geremy Davis, the wide receiver selected in the sixth round, has one catch and has played on special teams. Offensive lineman Bobby Hart, an offensive lineman, debuted last week vs. Washington on special teams. Fifth-round choice Mykkele Thompson, the safety from Texas, is on injured reserve after tearing his Achilles tendon in the preseason opener.
Odighizuwa believes this will be the week he finally gets a taste of regular-season action and an opportunity to put an opposing quarterback on the ground.
"If the coaches put me out there to get after the quarterback, I'm confident that I can get it done," he said. "We just have to keep playing. Stats aren't always the most telling thing, I'm sure you guys have heard from some of our guys. But at the end of the day, it's what we want to do. We want to get after the quarterback, we want to get sacks, we want to get pressures, hits on the quarterback, and so if I'm fortunate enough to be in those situations, then I'm going to do everything I can to make those things happen."
- Spagnuolo is very familiar with Buffalo quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who spent the previous four seasons as a backup in Baltimore. The previous two seasons, Spagnuolo was a defensive assistant for the Ravens.
"I've got a great deal of respect for Tyrod Taylor," Spagnuolo said. "I watched him for two years down at Baltimore, giving the Baltimore starting defense headaches every day, especially on Friday when it was a red zone day. If he tucked it and put it in, he was getting in the end zone. Used to drive those guys nuts. He's a good football player, he's smart, he's going to be a challenge.
"We got to find a way to get to him. He's a tough tackle, too, he's a strong guy. People say he's not big, but Tyrod is really put together. Best athlete I've seen on a football field. Again, I watched him for two years. He was the best athlete on that team down there. He just had fun playing and now he's taking that into a starting role in Buffalo and I'm happy for him. I don't want him to do too good this Sunday, but I'm happy for him."
- One week after it occurred, special teams coordinator Tom Quinn was still annoyed Washington's Rashad Ross returned a kickoff 101 yards for the final score in the Giants' victory.
"The touchdown, we had breakdowns," Quinn said. "We had some guys that didn't give the effort that we wanted, we had some guys that had some fundamental breakdowns, and so that's what happens when you have a couple guys not doing their job.
"It's been a long time since we've seen that (the Giants had last surrendered a kickoff return touchdown in 2007). It is frustrating. You want to play well, you want to finish the game well, and I didn't think we did that good enough. A couple of hands teams opportunities that we could've made cleaner; obviously, that kickoff return is something we would like to have back, but you learn from it and move on."
- Wide receiver Victor Cruz has been declared out of the Buffalo game because of his lingering calf injury. Cruz was forced to leave the field early in yesterday's practice.
"We were excited to have Victor back on the field with us," offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said. "It didn't work out this week, and we're going to move on from there."
Four other Giants players did not practice today, including two who did yesterday, Robert Ayers (hamstring) and defensive tackle Markus Kuhn (knee). Tight ends Daniel Fells (ankle) and Jerome Cunningham (knee) also sat out, but Tom Coughlin said again he believes Fells will be ready to face the Bills.
Flowers (ankle) was limited. Odighizuwa, running back Orleans Darkwa (knee) and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (concussion) practiced fully.