Cornerback Michael Ojemudia is no longer a “rookie cornerback” for the Denver Broncos, and the now-seasoned first year player feels like he got quite an education his first year in the pros.
Although he didn’t meet his individual goal of getting a pick as a rookie (he had one called back for penalty in the Jets game), Ojemudia felt more confident as the year went on about being in the right position to do it.
And that’s something at least.
“I actually wanted to leave the year with a pick and that didn’t happen, but the last couple games, I got more consistent and made some plays on the ball and I’m proud of that,” he told Broncos Country Tonight hosts Ryan Edwards and Benjamin Allbright. “But I definitely want to be more hungry, hunt for the ball more next year.”
In the final game against the Raiders, Ojemudia caused two fumbles, which he was proud of, but losing to the Raiders put a damper on his feelings about that game.
“Making two plays on the ball were important,” he added, “but I wish we hadn’t let game slip through our hands. ...Next year, I’m going to be way more hungry when the ball is in the air.”
Ojemudia ended up playing every game, starting in 11 of them as the cornerback room depleted quickly over the second half of the season after A.J. Bouyé was suspended and Bryce Callahan got injured.
And while his “stat” sheet only shows six batted balls and two forced fumbles, plus 55 tackles including one for a loss, the corner certainly grew as the season went on - even doing an admirable job defending Julio Jones.
Saying that Jones was “definitely the best” receiver he had to cover this year, Ojemudia felt the pain all rookies feel their first year - a much faster game.
“Definitely the hardest was speed of the game,” he said. “Football is still football but at the next level, guys are faster, routes are faster.”
But Ojemudia learned quickly that whether you’re a “rookie or 10-year vet, you’re expected to do your job.”
Michael Ojemudia played an absolutely stellar game yesterday against New England— PFF DEN Broncos (@PFF_Broncos) October 19, 2020
88.6 grade (best game grade of any rookie cornerback this year)
89.8 coverage grade
6 tackles and 2 forced fumbles pic.twitter.com/HSBjSMIxRC
When asked about his highlight and lowlight of the year, I thought it was interesting that the young corner didn’t focus on personal accolades or misses. Instead it was team wins and team losses. Those represented the best and worst for him.
“The highlight of the year was the Chargers game when we came out with the last-second win. That was kind of a glimpse for me of how a really good win feels. The locker room is pumped. Everybody is happy. Winning feels good,” he said, adding that whenever he’s playing from now on, he’s “going to chase that winning feeling.”
On the flip side, the final Raiders’ game was his lowlight.
“Ending the season on a loss, even though we were not playing for anything, still hurts the same,” he said.
Agreed, OJ, agreed.
But like any good team player, he’s using it for his offseason fuel.
“We need to take this division by storm next year,” Ojemudia said. “A lot of guys are hungry. We have a lot to prove next year and that’s the mentality we’re all going to have.”
As he looked back on a season he described as a “rollercoaster,” Ojemudia said he could see the growth in his play.
“And I definitely see a lot of things I can improve on, so I’m excited for this next year.”