EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Defensive end Owa Odighizuwa was somewhat of an afterthought when the New York Giants reported to training camp.
The third-round draft pick in 2015 played in only four games as a rookie because of foot and hamstring issues, and he didn’t do much when he was on the field, collecting three tackles.
So when the Giants signed defensive end Olivier Vernon and tackle Damon “Snacks” Harrison during free agency, re-signed end Jason Pierre-Paul and had tackle Johnathan Hankins return from a pectoral injury, that was the talk of the line.
Other players would get some time, but those guys were going to be the main four.
Odighizuwa opened some eyes in Friday night’s 27-10 preseason loss to the Miami Dolphins. The UCLA product had two sacks, three quarterback hits and three tackles.
It wasn’t garbage-time numbers, either. His first quarterback hit came on Ryan Tannehill on the Dolphins’ third play from scrimmage on a move from the inside. His sacks against backup Matt Moore came late in the second quarter and early in the third.
“It was awesome and it was a lot of fun,” Odighizuwa said Sunday after the Giants returned to practice following a day off. “Just being able to make some plays and be out there for the first time in a while was a lot of fun.”
Odighizuwa never felt overlooked after the offseason signings.
“I just looked at it as I still have an opportunity, and it’s up to me to make the most of it and prepare, so I can display my skill set,” he said.
Odighizuwa reminds many of former Giants Osi Umenyiora and Mathias Kiwanuka. He is quick off the ball like Umenyiora and has some of the linebacker skills that Kiwanuka showed in alternating between end and linebacker.
“I went back to the drawing board and looked at the situation and looked at my body, it was pretty beat up from the process of the pre-draft and what not,” Odighizuwa said. “I just looked at how to train better and train smarter, and I attacked it.”
His weight didn’t change in the offseason, but he worked on his soft tissue and got together with a message therapist to keep his body loose and flexible. His got a little stronger and worked on his movement on the field.
Odighizuwa also spent a lot of time watching film to learn more about pass rushing techniques. He studied the Giants’ best in recent years — Osi, JPP, Justin Tuck and Michael Strahan.
“I watched guys with different body types and compared them to me, what they do that I can probably do, and what they do that I can’t do,” he said. “I just did that with a whole list of different guys and tried to work on things that could really help me.”
In the preseason opener, it was the right formula.
Second-year safety Landon Collins noticed the change.
“When you have guys like that, that can rush the passer, it’s fantastic,” he said.
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