When the Pittsburgh Steelers grabbed Miami (FL) edge defender Quincy Roche in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft, many draftniks boasted about his ability to rush the passer off the edge — and rightfully so.
But a deeper dive into the former Temple and Miami star pass rusher’s tape showed a nuanced, disciplined run defender that should be able to see the field quickly as a rookie in that area of his game.
Sure, the sack numbers stand out in a big way; how could they not, considering he cranked out 30.5 career sacks in four seasons with the Owls and Hurricanes. But his ability to shoot gaps against the run, stack and shed on the perimeter and consistently wrangle the ball carrier to the ground is quite impressive, and leads me to believe he’ll be quite the steal for the Steelers as a Day 3 draft pick.
Playing primarily with his hand in the dirt throughout his college career, Roche showed the high-level ability to lean on his short-area burst and agility to make plays behind the line of scrimmage throughout his collegiate career.
According to his Pro Football Focus guide grades, Roche’s run-stop defense was rather low at 70.8, but he had a well above-average run-stop percentage of 9.1%, helping shut down the run game from his side of the defense.
His testing numbers weren’t overly impressive, but he moves so well on tape and makes plays behind the line of scrimmage thanks to his first step and his agility.
Here against Florida State in 2020, Roche fired through the B gap between the left tackle and the guard, eating up a ton of ground to make a huge tackle for loss on the Seminoles’ running back, all thanks to his ability to shoot a gap.
The thing that stands out with Roche when shooting gaps is his ability to get skinny — making his target area much, much smaller for blockers — allowing him to stay clean and get upfield to make plays.
Watch this rep in the red zone against Pittsburgh in 2020. He does a good job gaining ground at the snap, allowing him to get even with the blocker across from him. Watch the way he turns his shoulder and flips his hips just slightly, making himself skinny and cutting the target area in half, making it extremely hard to get a hat on him.
From there, he shows great strength and length to get to the ball carrier and get him on the ground for the huge TFL.
STACKING AND SHEDDING
Where Roche will have an impact in the NFL against the run is with his ability to truly stack and shed, keeping himself clean to make plays around the line of scrimmage.
While he doesn’t have great overall length for his size, Roche uses his hands very well and locks out against linemen to keep them out of his chest, which helps him win reps throughout his tape.
Watch the use of his left hand and arm here on the stretch run from Louisville in 2020.
Roche does a great job getting his inside arm into the chest of the blocker, creating separation to control the rep, sit down behind the line of scrimmage to shut off the stretch run, and work himself back inside to make the TFL.
Later in the season against Pittsburgh, Roche flashed great hand usage again when defending the run.
Twice within two yards Roche sheds blockers from his frame and works his way into space to make the stick at the line of scrimmage.
His initial first step here against Pittsburgh is terrific, working back across the face of the tight end to win that battle before then punching and staying clean against the secondary blocker, working outside to make the run stop.
Against Virginia Tech, Roche posted arguably my favorite rep of his against the run, winning the battle against the tight end isolated one-on-one on the misdirection.
Though the Hokies’ tight end wins initially, hooking Roche just slightly, watch the way Roche wins with hand fighting to work back across the tight end’s face, shed the blocker and make the big stick against the running back right at the line of scrimmage.
Though he can be a tick slow to process the run initially, there are instances on tape where Roche flashes great processing skills and stays disciplined as a run defender, not taking himself out of the play by gaining too much ground.
I saw that against Pittsburgh in 2020 on a pin and pull with the right guard and tight end.
Watch the way Roche quickly processes the pull, slowing down just slightly to not gain too much ground, stunning the pulling right guard and bouncing off the pulling lineman to make a play behind the line of scrimmage.
Some run defenders will be too aggressive in instances like this, running themselves up the field too quickly, taking themselves out of the play entirely. Good run defenders realize quickly what’s happening and squeeze down the line to meet the pulling lineman and try to blow up the play.
While this isn’t a consistent part of Roche’s game, he flashed it a couple of times in his 2020 tape, showing me he’s a advanced as a run defender overall.
Pairing his ability to rush the passer with sound run defense should lead to Roche seeing the field as the No. 3 EDGE defender behind Alex Highsmith and T.J. Watt down the stretch in 2021.