With Dexter Lawrence enjoying a breakout year and Leonard Williams turning in another quality season, it was easy to forget that the New York Giants had few other options on the interior of their defensive line.
The Giants hope Rakeem Nuñez-Roches, an eight-year veteran added in free agency, will help take some of the burden off their star defensive tackles. Let’s take a look at how he fits into the team’s system.
By the numbers
Position: Defensive tackle
Contract: Year 1 of three-year, $12 million deal; $5.47 million guaranteed | 2023 cap hit: $2.63 million
Career to date
Nuñez-Roches was drafted in the sixth round by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2015 out of Southern Mississippi. He spent three years with the Chiefs, starting 16 games at both defensive tackle and on the edge.
The Chiefs cut Nuñez-Roches in 2018 and he spent the offseason with the Indianpolis Colts, who waived him shorty after the season began. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers quickly scooped him up, and Nuñez-Roches spent the last five seasons with the team.
Nuñez-Roches appeared in every game with Tampa Bay since 2019 but was only a regular starter for two years. However, they were the two seasons that matter most. He was the Buccaneers’ starting nose tackle during their 2020 Super Bowl run, and he made 10 starts last year while setting career highs with 33 tackles, 19 solo tackles, and five tackles for loss.
The Giants signed Nuñez-Roches early on in free agency, making strides to improve their lack of depth on the defensive line.
Even though Nuñez-Roches has experience as an edge defender, he’s not known for his pass-rushing prowess. His two sacks and three quarterback hits last year were both career highs, and he has just 3.5 sacks in his career. His main contribution will likely come against the run, where the Giants ranked 28th last year in yards allowed. Nuñez-Roches has shown the ability to penetrate the offensive line and is good in pursuit against quicker running backs.
In some ways, Nuñez-Roches is a poor man’s Dexter Lawrence. He can play at nose tackle or elsewhere on the interior. He has impressive quickness and burst off the line of scrimmage for a player of his size. And he’s rarely missed games due to injury during his eight-year career.
Those similarities will suit Nuñez-Roches well, as the Giants hope they can utilize him to take some pressure off Lawrence. Lawrence played 864 defensive snaps last year, over 100 more than any other Giants lineman. Leonard Williams also played a hefty 604 snaps in 12 games. If Nuñez-Roches proves to be reliable, his presence could give Lawrence or Williams more chances to rest without decimating the team’s defensive line. He could also end up starting next to them in the Giants’ 3-4 base set.