OXNARD, Calif. – Brace yourselves for the following spoiler: the Dallas Cowboys can stand to improve key areas of production from their interior defensive line. Having opted to not drop in a flashy free agent addition at the position this offseason - e.g., Ndamukong Suh - the onus is on the existing young group of linemen to get the job done as Dan Quinn enters his second year as the team's defensive coordinator. One such player is former Osa Odighizuwa, a former third-round pick (2021) who's champing at the bit to make a name for himself this coming season.
"I'm just a competitor in general," said Odighizuwa following the team's first padded practice on Monday. "I watch guys that are next to me since I [started] playing football - whether they know it or not. They're helping me get better, because I'm watching them to see what they're doing [well] and I'm like, 'OK, I wanna get me some, too.'"
And which guys, specifically, are leading the way in motivating Odighizuwa to improve?
"[Neville Gallimore] is one of those guys," he said, a sentiment that dovetails on Gallimore's expectation of great things to come from the interior defensive line group. "Trysten Hill is one of those guys, for sure, and [Quinton] Bohanna - big John [Ridgeway]. Just watching all of them to see what they're doing [well], and staying on top of my game."
A key element to any potential level up by Odighizuwa will be in his goal-setting, though, and he takes that aspect of his mental preparation very seriously.
The former all-conference defensive tackle for UCLA (2020) takes time before every single practice and game to scribble focal points onto his hand tape, a measure he treats like a red dot on the wall of a ship in rough water - helping him to remain focused when the proverbial waves start surging.
He shared a few of those daily goals on Monday, holding out his right wrist and showing the script to illustrate his point.
"I have my one thing, but I wrote them down on my tape: working on keeping my hands low and making sure I'm getting off the ball," he said. "It's actually three things, but it's about progression. ... It's something I started doing when I was at UCLA. It's something that when I'm really tired and things start to go by the wayside, I can just look down and have something that I know I can work on in those situations. I won't have to think about it too much, and I can just focus on those things."
But as far as his individual goals for the 2022 season are concerned, well, that's where the sharing stops.
"I set all of those, but I'm not going to tell you what they are."
It's a safe bet that, and here's the other spoiler: his goals include having a breakout season.