The New York Giants pass rush, or lack thereof, has been an embarrassment over the last couple years. The Giants have long been a franchise which prided itself on its ability to keep quarterbacks and offensive coordinators up at night. But lately they have struggled to impact opposing passing games with their pass rush.
While there is hope that Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines will blossom in a new defensive scheme, and that the Giants will be able to secure the services of a top-flight pass rusher in free agency, it makes sense to look at the 2020 NFL Draft for additional help and depth.
Michigan EDGE Josh Uche hasn’t seen the field much despite being a senior, but once he began getting consistent reps he proved to be a consistent problem for opposing offenses. He has been rising up draft boards over the first part of the draft process but suffered a hamstring injury at the Senior Bowl which kept him from participating in the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine. He is still a good prospect, but could that injury potentially cause teams to overlook him?
Prospect: Josh Uche (EDGE, Michigan)
Games Watched: vs. Wisconsin (2018), vs. Ohio State (2018), vs. Iowa (2019), vs. Illinois (2019), vs Penn State (2019)
Red Flags: Hamstring (2020)
Games Played: 26
Tackles For a loss: 19.5
Forced Fumbles: 3
Games Played: 12
Tackles For a loss: 10.5
Forced Fumbles: 1
Best: Get-off, athleticism, pass rush, coverage, versatility
Worst: Size, power
Projection: A starting EDGE or OLB in a multiple defense
Michigan EDGE Josh Uche is a versatile and athletic defender with the ability to play multiple roles in a defense.
As a pass rusher he shows a very good get-off, with good snap timing and a sudden first step. Uche has an explosive lower body which he uses to get an early advantage on blockers with his speed. His early strides get good distance upfield and stress offensive tackles when attacking the C-gap. Uche is capable of winning with speed, power, and converting speed to power. He favors a rip move when rushing with speed, using his hands well to keep his chest plate clean and keeping blockers from locking in their blocks and capitalizing on his low center of gravity. When rushing with power, Uche prefers a bull-rush as well as a single long-arm move to get defenders on their heels. He also shows the ability to uncoil his hips on a speed rush and convert speed to power.
Uche is also capable of dropping in coverage, both on zone blitzes and as a true off-ball linebacker. He appears comfortable in coverage and is able to turn and run with tight ends in man coverage. Uche is also occasionally used as a spy on athletic quarterbacks on Green Dog blitzes.
He shows good competitive toughness as a run defender. He gives very good effort in pursuit and doesn’t shy away from taking on larger blockers. Uche also shows quick processing speed and good football IQ in diagnosing both running plays and play fakes.
While Uche does like to use power as a counter to his speed off the edge, he lacks the top-end play strength to wrestle with larger linemen. He also lacks elite speed in the open field to keep up with more athletic offensive players in man coverage over a long distance. Finally, he needs to improve his hand usage when taking on cut blocks. Balance is occasionally an issue for him and he is too easily defeated by a runningback’s cut block.
Overall Grade: 6.4 - Possesses the talent and traits to become a starter early in his career. Should be an immediate contributor for whatever team drafts him. [Grading Scale]
Michigan EDGE Josh Uche projects as a starting EDGE in a “multiple” defense. While he has the ability to play as a SAM in a 4-3 defense, his greatest asset is his versatility to line up as a defensive end one play and a true off-ball linebacker the next. He will be best used in a defense that will allow him to move around the front seven and use that versatility to create mismatches and uncertainty on the offensive line.
Uche has a great first step and is sudden off the line of scrimmage, and that is his greatest weapon as a pass rusher. He is able to get less athletic tackles on their heels immediately, which lets him win with either his speed or converting his speed to power. Uche favors a rip move, and it should get better as he gets more experience. He already shows a good ability to use his hands and arms to keep blockers from locking in on his chest plate, but he could stand improvement in beating them efficiently.
His athleticism and mobility in space give a creative defensive coordinator additional options in deploying him in pass defense. Uche has the ability to line up as an A-gap blitzer and either be a speed mismatch for interior linemen or drop into coverage effectively.
He is a competitive run defender, refusing to back down from bigger offensive linemen and showing good hustle in pursuit. He needs to improve in taking on blocks in run defense when on the play-side, but his athleticism serves him well when sifting through the trash on the backside of plays.
Uche might not have “elite” upside, but he does enough in enough different areas of the game to make it difficult for a defensive coordinator to take him off the field.