Quincy Roche is here — and more than likely, here to stay. After being sprinkled into the Giants‘ pass rush rotation for much of the early part of the season, the rookie outside linebacker has seen his usage steadily climb over the past three weeks. On Sunday, in Big Blue’s Week 9 upset victory over the Las Vegas Raiders, with injuries littered throughout the defense’s front-seven, things came to a head for Roche.
In just his second career start, the Miami (FL) product (by way of Temple) shined when it mattered most. With only 44 seconds remaining in regulation and the Raiders at the Giants’ 13-yard line, Roche ended any hopes of Vegas tying up the score, beating tackle Kolton Miller around the edge en route to a strip-sack of quarterback Derek Carr. Roche’s clutch efforts solidified a Giants victory. They may have also solidified Roche’s placement in the Giants’ starting lineup, via NJ.com’s Zack Rosenblatt:
Roche Ready to Unseat Lorenzo Carter as a Starter?
Rosenblatt’s assessment was echoed throughout social media following the game, and it’s easy to see why. In Week 7, Roche logged 23 defensive snaps and has since followed that up with 50 snaps in back-to-back outings. Over that three-game span, the 23-year-old has totaled 10 combined tackles (six solo), two tackles for loss, one sack, four QB hits and four QB pressures. Furthermore, he finished Week 9 as PFF’s sixth-highest graded pass rusher and was one of just two Giants edge defenders — Azeez Ojualri being the other — to play more than 24 snaps.
It’s fairly evident Roche’s arrow is pointing up, but with him appearing primed to lock down a starting gig opposite Ajulari in the near future, that likely leaves Lorenzo Carter on the outside looking in. The former third-round pick, who has started each of his last 25 games in a Giants uniform, was inactive for the second consecutive week vs. the Raiders due to an ankle injury. However, when he gets back to full speed, chances are his role within Patrick Graham’s system will look a tad different, as Giants Wire’s Doug Rush highlighted on Twitter.
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Carter Primed for New Role? Ximines Done in New York?
Even with Ajulari and Roche’s promise, the Giants could still use help in the pass-rush department. Yet, chances are those snaps are likely best served for fourth-round rookie Elerson Smith, not Carter. After spending the first eight weeks of his pro career on injured reserve, the former Northern Iowa standout got his feet wet on special teams against the Raiders and is expected to see his defensive role increase coming out of the bye.
As for Carter, despite looking the part of an elite pass rusher, he’s never quite delivered in that area — even dating back to his collegiate days. A former 5-star recruit and the No. 14 ranked player in the nation (per ESPN), many touted him to be the next great Bulldogs pass rusher. Instead, Carter spent the majority of his four years in Athens as an off-ball linebacker. Three-and-a-half years into his pro career and that likely remains the best-suited role for Carter’s skillset.
Over his last 17 games, Carter has amassed just 2.0 sacks. However, his versatility has allowed him to remain on the field, playing 68% of the team’s defensive snaps since 2019. Carter can do a little of everything — just not great. Boasting 4.46-speed (unofficial), Carter can run sideline-to-sideline and can get by in coverage from time to time. With injuries to both Blake Martinez and Carter Coughlin, don’t be surprised to see Carter manning snaps on the inside next to middle linebacker Tae Crowder. Reggie Ragland has been serviceable at times at the weakside backer spot but lacks the athleticism and speed that Carter brings to the table. This would also allow Ragland to be more involved off the edge, where some would argue he is best suited.
In terms of Ximines, the once-budding Giants pass rusher has seemingly fallen out of favor in New York. Following a healthy-scratch in Week 9, the former third-rounder’s fall from grace has been one of the toughest pills to swallow for Giants faithful, as we at Heavy have previously covered:
It wasn’t long ago Ximines was gushing with upside. Despite starting just two games in his rookie season, the former Old Dominon star tied for the second-most sacks amongst Giants defenders with 4.5. The following season Ximines was thrust into the starting lineup, but had his 2020 season cut short after just four games due to a shoulder injury. Yet, even before his injury, the Queens native failed to produce up to his rookie standards.
Thus far in 2021, Ximines has taken a backseat to Carter and Ojulari — and apparently Smith. He’s logged just 33% of the team’s defensive snaps and hasn’t recorded a single sack over his last 14 games.