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From waivers to difference maker, Quincy Roche has earned his spot on the Giants

The rookie edge rusher has become an increasingly productive player for the Giants

NFL: Carolina Panthers at New York Giants Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Quincy Roche was never supposed to be in New York. The fumble he forced out of Derek Carr’s hands on the New York Giants’ 13-yard line with 44 seconds left to play to secure a 23-16 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders was not supposed to happen.

The 23-year-old edge rusher out of the University of Miami was a sixth-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. But he was a victim of roster cuts in the preseason and the Steelers released him on Aug. 31. Joe Judge, meanwhile, saw something in the young defensive end perhaps after attending the University of Miami Pro Day in March.

“He’s a guy that when you watch his tape coming out, we liked him,” Judge said after the game. “Obviously, we didn’t get him. He was drafted and went to Pittsburgh, but we were able to get him through the 53 cut, so that was something that when it happened was very good for us.”

Gradually, Roche has seen more playing time. He did not dress until Week 3 and did not see a lot of action that week or the next. Roche played in 14 percent of the Giants’ defensive snaps in Week 5 against the Cowboys and then played 36 percent of snaps the following week vs. the Panthers. In that game, Roche recorded three tackles, one for loss. Then on Monday night in Kansas City, Roche stepped up in a big way in the wake of an ankle injury to Lorenzo Carter that prevented him from playing. In that game, Roche’s first career start, he recorded three tackles.

Sunday against the Raiders at MetLife Stadium, Roche had four tackles, including two solo, one sack, two quarterback hits and one forced fumble.

“He’s made some plays in the run game,” Judge said. “He’s made some plays on some pass rushes. He’s doing a decent job for us in the kicking game. Like every player, there’s a lot of things he has to keep developing. This will be a good week for him in terms of coming off and having a couple of days this bye week of getting a better understanding of some things as we get through this stretch of the season, but I see an improving player.”

Giants fans, for their part, are seeing a budding player who shows the potential to become a mainstay on Patrick Graham’s defense. After the game, Roche walked the media through what he saw on his fourth-quarter strip sack.

“I’d been looking at his (Raiders T Kolton Miller) set all game,” Roche said. “I was going power for the most part, but that drive wanted to give a change up, wanted to switch it up against a good player and I beat him around the edge.”

Roche added that he was focused on seeing the play through.

“Just finish,” Roche said. “It goes back to what we do in practice. Just practice and finishing all the time at the top of your rushes. That’s been drilled hundreds of times, so when you’re in the game your body is taking over.”

He said that he knew the ball was recovered by one of his teammates once he heard the roar of the crowd.

“I just heard the crowd start screaming and that’s how I knew. My head was turned the other way and I saw the crowd screaming. I heard the crowd screaming and I just got super excited.

Roche’s forced fumble squelched the momentum of a Raiders team that was surging down the field in the final minutes.

“Anytime you have a two-minute situation, you know, for the pass rushers that’s on the field that’s time to show up,” Roche said. “That’s for any pass rusher and so you know that’s the moments that we live for. It’s those two-minute opportunities, opportunities to help the team and get the quarterback down.”

With the third defensive turnover of the day for the Giants defense, Roche is playing an increasingly important role in a unit that has begun to find its stride in recent weeks.

“I think it’s just everybody jelling together, everybody working hard in practice and it shows in the game,” Roche said. “So, I’m really thrilled with this defense, the way that we’ve been playing, but of course there’s room for improvement, so we’ll be back in the lab after this bye week and we’ve got a tough opponent next.”

The Giants have a bye week coming up followed by another primetime battle, this time against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But in the meantime, Roche continues to establish himself as an important part of the Giants’ defensive strategy. He started his first game last week due to the injury to Carter and linebacker Oshane Ximines was a healthy scratch in today’s matchup. Roche has proved that he can step up in their absence.

Over Weeks 6-8, Roche had five “stops”, which Pro Football Focus defines as a tackle that constitutes a failure for the offense. Over that time, Roche has played 84 total snaps, 57 coming in pass-rushing situations. Carter, meanwhile has one QB hit, one tackle for loss, eight pressures and eight stops in 146 pass-rushing snaps. Ximines has two QB hits, one TFL, seven total pressures and five stops in 96 pass-rushing snaps.

But for a guy that was never supposed to be in New York, the stats illustrate an even more important fact: he deserves to be here now.

“I’m thankful to be here,” Roche said. “I’m thrilled to be here and thankful for the opportunity for the Giants to claim me off of waivers and I’ve just been trying to get better every day. That’s my job—to come in here with a great mindset, get better every day and when my number is called, show up.”