The Giants have spent the first few weeks of training camp enjoying the sight of their young bookend offensive tackles, Andrew Thomas and rookie Evan Neal. On Sunday they got their first look this summer at what they hope will be the defensive equivalent.
Linebacker Azeez Ojulari had his first practice after starting camp on the non-football injury list, lining up for the first time with rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux. Ojulari showed up to the team with a hamstring injury that kept him sidelined since late July, but on Sunday he passed his physical and took his place with the starting defense.
“It feels good to be back with the team doing what I do best, what I love to do,” Ojulari said.
Last year, Ojulari set the team record for sacks by a rookie with eight. It set the bar Thibodeaux will try to clear during his rookie campaign. Ojulari said he won’t mind if Thibodeaux breaks his record. The better Thibodeaux does, Ojulari figures, the better it will be for himself.
“We are going to play hard no matter what, try to dominate and just be us,” Ojulari said. “[Thibodeaux] comes in every day and competes and works hard. Tries to push everyone. Just gets better every day. A head-down guy . . . We’ve got that same energy, same motor. We’re definitely going to push each other and feed off of each other’s energy and just get after people.”
Ojulari’s return came just in time for an outside linebacker group that saw two of its members walk off the field with the medical staff during Sunday’s practice. Elerson Smith had what appeared to be a right ankle injury and Jihad Ward, who had been with the starters in the place Ojulari figures to play, went to the training room with him.
That took a little of the joy from Ojulari’s return, especially because unlike their offensive tackle duo, the Giants will need to rotate at outside linebacker and have other players replace Thibodeaux and Ojulari from time to time.
Notes & quotes: The Giants’ offensive line depth already is at a critical juncture with the team forced to go with a fourth-string option at left guard in Sunday’s practice. With starter Shane Lemieux out for a while with a toe or foot injury suffered in Thursday’s preseason game and his backup, rookie Joshua Ezeudu, also sidelined, Ben Bredeson made the jump from third-string center to first-string guard at the start of the workout. When starting center Jon Feliciano left the field midway through practice with what appeared to be a right arm issue, Bredeson took his place at center and Max Garcia filled in at guard . . . Other injuries have altered the team’s plans for practices this week. Daboll said he initially expected to have the players in full pads three times before Sunday’s preseason game against the Bengals but instead will curtail that to twice . . . Daboll did not sound optimistic about WR Kadarius Toney practicing this week, although Toney was on the field and not in the training room on Sunday . . . The Giants' offense had one of its worst performances of camp on Sunday, struggling to move the ball or make completions. Daniel Jones was picked off by Adoree’ Jackson and Darnay Holmes. Other than a long touchdown run by Saquon Barkley, there were few plays that went for any significant yardage. The coaches had to give the group imaginary first downs just to keep them on the field beyond three or four reps in periods when they were supposed to be on long drives . . . The Giants waived CB Michael Jacquet and G Josh Rivas and terminated the contract of DB Jarrod Wilson. They will need to make two more roster moves to get under the 85-man limit required by the league as of Tuesday afternoon.