Defensive Adewale Ojomo didn’t have any misconceptions when he joined the Giants as an undrafted free agent in the spring. He knew he wouldn’t win the respect of a unit he describes as “the best defensive line in the NFL” overnight, particularly coming off a one-and-a-half-sack season at Miami.
At the time it was hard to criticize Ojomo publically, but now that he’s registered four sacks in four preseason games, veteran Justin Tuck didn’t hesitate to say he had his doubts.
“You didn’t see that at all,” Tuck said, adding that Ojomo continued to “listen” and “work.”
In addition to his three tackles in the preseason finale against the New England Patriots on Wednesday night, Ojomo forced the fumble that lead to the game-winning field goal.
On Thursday Ojomo said he was happy with his “effort,” but felt he had some technical things that “can definitely improve.” And when it comes to Ojomo, improvement can happen right in front of your eyes.
A year ago he was forced to play at 275 pounds as he filled in at defensive tackle for the Hurricanes. Now he’s back to 265, which he says helps his quickness, and he’s been able to sponge up lessons from Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Jason Pierre-Paul and defensive line coach Robert Nunn. In doing so, he’s given himself a chance to inherit departed defensive end Dave Tollefson’s role -- a spot that garnered five sacks for the current Oakland Raider in 2011.
And Ojomo’s ascent was riddled with obstacles.
When training camp began, Ojomo was buried behind older players such as Adrian Tracy and Justin Trattou. Both had appeared in regular season games for the Giants, and Trattou was seen as the favorite to win Tollefson’s old job.
As with almost any player’s emergence, Ojomo benefitted from some luck. Trattou hurt his ankle at the beginning of camp while Tracy -- who looked very good in the first preseason game -- injured his hamstring against the New York Jets in the second preseason game, and has yet to return to the field.
Ojomo will know if he’s made the Giants by Friday, so he has some restless hours in front of him. Even with the injuries at the position and his own production, he knows there’s a chance he won’t make the 53-man roster.
“I’m really nervous right now at this point,” he said. “You know, this is my livelihood. It’s a lot banking on this, so I’m kind of nervous right now. I’ll just be getting my mind mentally ready for whatever comes.”
Give his preseason success, another team could try to sign Ojomo should the Giants decide to cut him on Friday.