Growth of Arizona Cardinals’ BJ Ojulari, Garrett Williams on display at OTAs

May 23, 2024, 11:28 AM

Using their rookie season as a benchmark and getting a full offseason for football instead of draft prep, young pros are expected to take a hefty jump in Year 2.

When it comes to the Arizona Cardinals’ 2023 draft class, pass rusher BJ Ojulari and cornerback Garrett Williams are among those catching the eyes of defensive coordinator Nick Rallis and others following a week of organized team activities.

“I was just talking to (offensive coordinator Drew Petzing) about it. He was like, ‘Man, I can see BJ’s taken a step already in just a couple practices,'” Rallis told Arizona Sports’ Wolf & Luke.

“Just in the run game, setting violent edges, playing low, using his length, getting separation, hitting the ball and then winning his rushes.”

Ojulari looked noticeably different on the practice fields on Monday. On top of his different number — 18 to 9 — the linebacker added more bulk to his lengthy frame.

And unlike last year, he doesn’t have to worry about a knee issue limiting his work early on.

Getting elevated play from Ojulari in Year 2 could do wonders for a defense desperate for an outside linebacker to take the reins.

With the positive early returns, he could be closer to reaching that level.

As a rookie, Ojulari was tied for second on the team in sacks (four) to go along with five tackles for loss and a pass defensed in 17 games played.

“I’m excited about BJ,” Rallis said. “I know he’s been working hard. He’s looked good so far. He’s got to keep building off it.”

Cardinals CB Garrett Williams hitting his stride

Williams meanwhile continues to impress his defensive coordinator with his knowledge of the game.

Having a clean bill of health and focusing more on football activities than rehabbing from a torn ACL has only helped. Williams was rehabbing during his rookie year’s offseason workouts and into the regular season.

“I feel really good where Garrett is at,” Rallis said. “You want to talk about a smart player that prepares, he’s one of the best. He’s one of the best pros I’ve been around.”

Williams enters Year 2 already expected to take over a meaningful role after getting a lot of run out of the nickel across nine games (six starts) last season. During that span, he recorded 23 tackles, an interception and two passes defensed.

Williams is going to have plenty of competition this offseason but could be under consideration to command the outside spot opposite projected starter and veteran Sean Murphy-Bunting.

In addition to returning second-year corners Kei’Trel Clark and Starling Thomas V, Arizona drafted three rookies in the 2024 draft.

“I see us making it to the playoffs and really making a run,” Williams told Wolf & Luke on Tuesday. “I know for us to do that, I have to be able to play at a really high level, knowing the NFL and who we play in our division and our schedule in general, at corner and nickel you got to have ballers. My thing is just being a high-level football player for the team.

“If we’re in the playoffs and winning games and all that, that means I’m doing my job and a lot of other guys are doing their jobs. Whatever comes with that I know will be a good thing.”

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