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“He's been ballin’”: Why Michael Ojemudia is no longer competing for a roster spot, but instead a starting job heading into training camp

Zac Stevens Avatar
July 21, 2022

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos secondary is not short of top-end talent.

Pat Surtain was a top-1o pick. Ronald Darby’s making $10 million a year. Justin Simmons is an All-Pro, Pro Bowler and one of the highest-paid safeties in the entire NFL. And Kareem Jackson is a former first-round pick who is a borderline Pro Bowler year in and year out.

Yet despite an already stacked group, one former third-round pick made plenty of noise and stole the spotlight time and time again during the team’s offseason workout program.

“OJ. Michael Ojemudia,” Pat Surtain quickly said, when asked what cornerback caught his eye during the offseason. “He’s made plays throughout these whole OTAs. He’s been ballin’. He’s been showing that he’s capable of making those big-time plays. He’s showing out these whole OTAs. So I would say him.”

After an up-and-down rookie season in 2020—where Ojemudia showed flashes, but also got beat multiple times—a hamstring injury derailed his sophomore campaign in 2021.

However, despite missing the first 15 games of the season, Ojemudia made his presence felt in his lone start of the season in Week 18 against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Playing in 96 percent of the defensive snaps, Ojemudia racked up 11 tackles and had two near interceptions off Patrick Mahomes. While he wasn’t able to bring either of them in, they still turned into two passes defended against the elite quarterback.

This offseason, the 24-year-old corner has picked up where he left off from that game.

“He’s really stepped up and really done a great job,” Nathaniel Hackett said during the team’s mandatory minicamp. “There has been a couple of instances when you have actually seen him getting better, just even through coaching. Things ‘CP’ [Christian Parker] and Ejiro [Evero] have been asking him to do and you see that stuff show up on tape. He’s had a couple breaks on some plays and he’s competing out of his mind.”

Much like he did in Week 18 against the Chiefs, Ojemudia has been holding his own going up against Russell Wilson, Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick and the rest of Denver’s starting offense. No. 13 took the majority of first-team reps during OTAs and minicamp in place of Ronald Darby, who was nursing an injury, opposite Pat Surtain.

On multiple occasions, Ojemudia made his presence felt, including a pass break up in the end zone when Wilson tried to find Patrick in the front left corner.

“He’s gotten so much better,” Evero added during mandatory minicamp. “It’s a credit to him and a credit to Coach ‘CP’, Ola [Adams], ‘Dre’ [DeAndre Thompson] and those guys that are working with him. He’s really, really improved, which is good because we need a lot of depth at that position.”

While Darby is expected to be healthy for training camp, which begins July 27, Ojemudia has put himself in a position to at least compete for playing time, if not push Darby for the starting job.

“[He’s] making plays,” Darby himself added about the third-year corner. “He comes out ready to work each day. He pays attention in meetings, asks questions and goes out there and makes plays every day.”

Ojemudia’s play-making ability goes beyond just passes defended and interceptions. In fact, as a rookie, despite only starting 11 games, the 6-foot-1 , 200-pound corner had a team-high four forced fumbles. As a rookie, a cornerback had more forced fumbles than Alexander Johnson, Bradley Chubb and Shelby Harris combined.

During this offseason, Ojemudia continued to display his play-making abilities.

A hamstring injury did its best to derail Ojemudia’s promising young career. But over the past half a year, he’s pushed his way back to not just making the 53-man roster, but competing for a starting job during training camp.


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