Cardinals’ BJ Ojulari keeping head down as he continues to trend up
Nov 13, 2023, 5:54 PM | Updated: 10:17 pm
TEMPE — After a bumpy start to his rookie season, Arizona Cardinals pass rusher BJ Ojulari is settling in.
The rookie’s career day in Arizona’s 25-23 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday was the latest proof of that.
Ojulari was among the game’s defensive standouts behind two sacks, eight tackles — two of which were for losses — and two QB hits.
“It feels really good, especially coming out with the win, as well, and just being able to contribute and see a great progression going up,” Ojulari said on Monday.
“Definitely just feeling more comfortable out there,” the linebacker added. “Feeling more free, (defensive coordinator Nick Rallis) comes to me every game and tells me to play free and don’t worry about making mistakes and I think that’s what I did yesterday.”
After Ojulari failed to record 20% of the available defensive snaps through the first four weeks of the season, the linebacker has now posted at least a 26% snap share in five of the past six games.
And with more time on task, we’re seeing more production from Ojulari, especially of late.
With his performance on Sunday, Ojulari is now up to three sacks, 14 tackles, three TFLs and three QB hits in the last three games combined.
It’s a credit to the extra work he’s putting on a daily basis.
Not only has Ojulari seen a bump in play from his extracurricular sessions, he’s seeing a noticeable jump in confidence.
“I think I’ve improved very well, especially just things with my posture, with my hands, my pad level, working with the guys extra, as well,” Ojulari said. “Getting out there with (Zaven Collins), working on coverage drops and understanding more intricate things about the backend so I can play fast and more free.”
Having a position coach like Robert Rodriguez doesn’t hurt, either.
“He’s been a huge part to my development,” the linebacker said. “Since I got here, he’s been in my ear, coaching me very hard, staying on me, doing the little things just so I can be able to be that player he thinks I can become.”
“I think I still have a lot of improvement,” Ojualri added while on with Arizona Sports’ Wolf & Luke. “It’s just a matter of coming in every day and continue to progress.”
“Yeah, that’s No. 1”
Not only was it Ojulari’s first two-sack effort of his young career, it was also his introduction to seeing what quarterback Kyler Murray brings to the offense in a game setting firsthand.
Murray did not disappoint, especially when it came to a critical third-down scramble late that kept the game-winning drive alive.
“I was sitting down on the bench and all I see is him rolling to the left and then he hit the spin back,” Ojulari said. “You just see him turn on the jets and he’s going for like 30-40 yards and I’m like, ‘Yeah, that’s No. 1.'”
“It’s way different seeing it up close and personal, because on TV it’s almost like he’s making it look like a video game,” he added. “And when you’re in the moment on a big-time play that we needed in a big-time situation, it’s almost surreal.”