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Giants’ Owa Odighizuwa opens up another path to QB

New York Giants defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa reacts

New York Giants defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa reacts on the bench during the second half of an NFL preseason football game in Cincinnati, Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. Credit: AP / Gary Landers

When the Giants flashed their pass rush on Friday night against the Dolphins, it came from expected sources. Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul were consistent chasers of quarterback Ryan Tannehill — at one point they even bumped into each other in pursuit of him — which is exactly what the Giants wanted when they signed the two players in the offseason.

But the other piece of the pass rush was a bit more unexpected. At least it seemed to be that way to the Dolphins. Owa Odighizuwa, a second-year defensive end who was injured most of last season, had a hit on Tannehill early on and later added two sacks against the Miami second team to amp up the expectations for the young player.

Were the Dolphins surprised by his effectiveness?

“I would say so,” Odighizuwa said.

Were the Giants? Not so much.

“It was good to see him get some nice rushes in there,” Ben McAdoo said.

Perhaps the biggest eye-opener was that Odighizuwa’s early rush on the quarterback came from an inside position. It was a straight bull rush against guard Dallas Thomas in which Odighizuwa pushed his counterpart backward and slid off to hit the quarterback.

Odighizuwa’s best asset is supposed to be his speed, and maybe it still is, but he showed his power on that particular play.

“I’m a versatile guy, a versatile athlete,” he said after the game. “As a pass rusher, I believe I can move down the line and rush from different spots and put pressure on the quarterback. In this defense, that’s good for me and my skill set to allow me to make plays.”

It also helps that he has the veterans next to him.

“I know that I’m probably going to be having a lot of one-on-ones inside because they’ll be focusing on JPP and OV,” he said. “My whole goal is to take advantage of that. I tried to do that on the first play and it was pretty successful.”

Odighizuwa missed most of his rookie season with what he called a “freak” foot injury, essentially a pulled muscle in his foot that prevented him from planting or pushing off without pain. This year he’s healthy and has a knowledge of the defensive playbook. He figures to be a key component on the Giants’ defensive line, the third end who comes in when JPP or Vernon needs a breather, or the inside pass rusher when the Giants go to their speed package up front, as they did on that early third-and-9 play on Friday.

The Giants want to see more of that.

“He just has to let it rip,” McAdoo said. “He’s a talented young man, he’s a good-looking sucker, and he just has to go out there and let it rip and play fast and play aggressive.”

Odighizuwa hears that and is trying to oblige. “Play fast and play with a reckless abandon,” he said. “That’s what they’ve been excited for me to do and that’s what I wanted to give them [on Friday].”


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