EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Jason Pierre-Paul situation has created openings and opportunity on the New York Giants' defensive line. Rookie third-round pick Owamagbe Odighizuwa is one of the players the Giants hope can step forward and seize that opportunity. But first, he has a lot of learning to do.
"I think the biggest thing for me right now is pass rush," Odighizuwa said Sunday. "They want me to be a great pass-rusher. And so every day, I'm always talking to (defensive line coach Robert Nunn) about what he wants, what I did well or what I need to improve on. They know I bring a lot to the table, and they want to maximize that."
Odighizuwa was a 3-4 defensive end at UCLA and wasn't asked to develop pass-rush moves or get after the quarterback in that scheme. But the Giants drafted him in the third round because they liked his physical profile -- 6-foot-3, 267 pounds, 4.62 in the 40-yard dash and a best-among-defensive-linemen 39-inch vertical jump at the combine -- and believed they could develop him into a fearsome pass-rusher.
That process began in the spring. And while it was slowed a bit due to a leg injury that held the rookie out of OTAs and part of minicamp, he spent a great deal of time watching pass-rushers of the Giants' present and recent past -- Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora -- to brush up on his technique.
"Those are three different athletes completely," Odighizuwa said. "But they all have something in common that they do very well. They're able to bend the corner, flip their hips, but they do it with different moves. So for me, I'm trying to figure out what move really works for me. And that comes with just repetition at practice, constantly just drilling and drilling, seeing, 'OK, this move works, this move doesn't work, I need to try this,' and not being afraid to keep trying different moves."
The Giants have given Odighizuwa some first-team reps at defensive end, but those have mainly been in run-defense situations. They (and he) believe he can help right away as a run defender on the edge.
But what would really elevate Odighizuwa would be quick development of those pass-rush moves, which are still relatively new to him.
"Right now, I'm working on chopping and clubbing with my outside hand, really being active with both hands," Odighizuwa said. "Sometimes, I'm active with one hand and the other hand isn't really working or helping me in my rush, and that's something that Coach Nunn pointed out to me early in OTAs. Even though I have great speed and I have power and this and that, he's telling me, 'You need to make sure both hands are active in your pass rush so you can turn the corner easier.' Things like that, that I didn't really think about or weren't brought to my attention. These are things that I'm learning and trying to pick up as quick as I can."
The quicker the better. There are snaps to be had and sacks to be pursued on that Giants' defensive line, especially as long as Pierre-Paul stays away nursing his hand injuries. The speed with which Odighizuwa develops as a pass-rusher could have a lot to say about how the Giants play defense this season.