The forgotten EDGE player heading into 2021 is most certainly 2019 third-round selection Oshane Ximines, who suffered a season-ending shoulder injury against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 4.
Ximines had a solid 2019 rookie campaign, amassing 25 pressures and 4.5 sacks, but his struggles Ximines landed him in a predominant third-down pass-rushing role with the Giants in 2020.
Though it was a small sample size (110 snaps), there were still some signs of improvement in defending the run, yet those signs probably aren’t enough to earn full-time work, especially on the current Giants roster and with the talent projected ahead of him.
The dearth of talent at the EDGE position in 2020 was evident after the season-ending injuries to Ximines and Lorenzo Carter.
New York had to get creative with their personnel. Players like Jabaal Sheard valiantly executed the assignments, but he was nothing more than a stop-gap.
The rookies, Carter Coughlin and Cam Brown were respectable for late-Day 3 picks, but it's probably safe to say that they wouldn't have been contributing as much on a playoff team.
The fact that now-former linebacker David Mayo had to take 99 snaps as an edge rusher in last year’s defense tells you all you need to know about the impact the injuries had on the unit.
If improving the play-makers on offense was Priority No. 1, improving the edge rushers must have been Priority 1A. Reportedly, the Giants were in on the Rams’ Leonard Floyd, but he opted to return to Los Angeles, which, to be frank, was a blessing because I suspect it would have made it challenging to sign wide receiver Kenny Golladay.
Ifeadi Odenigbo and Ryan Anderson were added as cost-effective free-agent additions. The former is a quality situational pass rusher with inside rush capabilities, and the latter is a good edge setter against the run.
The Giants weren’t done addressing the position in free agency, and many speculated they would invest multiple picks into the EDGE group during the 2021 NFL Draft.
The Giants selected Georgia’s Azeez Ojulari in the second round and UNI’s Elerson Smith in the fourth. Ojulari could be the Giants' best all-around pass rusher this season (depending on the health of Lorenzo Carter), and Smith, interestingly enough, seems like a higher upside bet than Oshane Ximines.
Smith thrives with his lateral quickness, lower body explosive ability, and knowledge of how and when to use his hands. His skill-set is similar to Ximines because the coaching staff may not want him on the field on early downs, but he can be an asset as a pass rusher.
Ximines should still have a place on this roster, and he flashed enough in his rookie season to certainly earn a spot, but I wouldn’t say it’s a complete guarantee (albeit I would be shocked if he is not a part of this roster).
I think one of the low-key camp battles could be Ximines reestablishing himself as the “third down specialist" over Smith. If Smith does shine, it may be difficult for Ximines to see the field outside of the occasional cameo.
Let’s see how Ximines improved in this edition of the Good, the Great, and the Ugly.
(Oshane Ximines is No. 53.)
The Good: Run improvement
I have been critical of Ximines’ ability to play the run in the past, and frankly, I still am critical of this ability. He lacks the power, pop, and posterior strength (the three Ps) to set a firm EDGE which is vital in Patrick Graham’s system.
However, there was growth and a bit of development in this area from Year 1.
Ximines was washed down the line of scrimmage or kicked out far too often in 2019. In his brief 2020 season, he did a better job against offensive blockers, specifically tight ends.
He’s a 9-technique in a two-point stance to the right of your screen, on the outside shoulder of the tight end. The tight end does a great job positioning himself on the outside portion of Ximines, a very good attempt to seal the edge.
However, Ximines gets his outside hand on the midline of the tight end’s chest and drives laterally, showing solid push; Ximines then uses that hand to uncoil the hips of the tight end and get him off-balanced while spilling the run outside to the alley defender.
Ximines doesn’t make the tackle here, but he does enough to stress the offense and allow his teammates to make a play.
Ximines uses some quickness to get inside the tight end’s block here, as the tight end steps outside. He’s originally lined up as a 9-technique, a bit more outside than he was in the previous play.
He gets his hands inside the tight end while also positioning himself far enough upfield to disrupt the jet-sweep.
He boxes the running back inside, giving him no option to bounce outside while shedding the blocking attempt and making a tackle for a loss.
It’s a great play from Ximines against a player who typically doesn’t align as a tight end.
In this short-yardage situation, Ximines leverages his excellent lateral quickness and athletic ability to defeat the offensive tackle while aligned as a 4-technique. Ximines is typically very quick with his hands; he shoots both hands inside while crashing the B-gap at the snap.
He fills the hole, and, at the same time, Nick Mullens attempts to penetrate with the quarterback sneak. Ximines holds up long enough to allow other defenders to crash on top of Mullens and not allow him to pick up the first down. Ximines does a good job avoiding the block here.
We also get to see Ximines do well against Mike McGlinchey (69), a solid tackle for the 49ers. Watch how McGlinchey gets inside initially, yet Ximines readjusts his fit and earns the tackle’s chest while keeping himself clean and flowing laterally.
Again, Ximines uses his quick feet to get outside of McGlinchey’s large radius. Still, he also shows the ability to absorb initial contact and disengage from a tackle--a sign of development.
In this play, we see Ximines to our right execute a squeeze technique against FB Kyle Juszczyk (No. 44). Ximines follows the rules: see down, step down, stay low, embrace for contact, absorb, and spill if necessary.
Juszczyk gets low with his hit, and Ximines gets pushed back slightly but can still recollect his balance and go after the football. Also, Lorenzo Carter makes a great play in pursuit.
MORE "GOOD, GREAT & UGLY" BREAKDOWNS
WR Kelvin Benjamin | RB Devontae Booker | RB Corey Clement | OLB Lorenzo Carter | CB Isaac Yiadom | TE Kaden Smith | WR Kenny Golladay | TE Levine Toilolo | Edge Ifeadi Odenigbo | DT Danny Shelton | OL Zach Fulton | CB Adoree' Jackson | TE Evan Engram | S Jabrill Peppers | S Xavier McKinney | ILB Reggie Ragland | WR John Ross | TE Kyle Rudolph
The Great: Quickness
Ximines has a unique ability to explode laterally while avoiding contact; he has the necessary bend and awareness to leverage this trait while putting himself into advantageous positions on the football field.
In Week 1 against Pittsburgh, Ximines shoots inside of the tackle and almost gets a clean shot on Ben Roethlisberger (7). Ximines aligns in a wide-9 position as the tight end releases vertically; this stresses the tackle who must be aware of the combination 3- and 1-technique to that side.
Ximines stresses up the arc aggressively before exploding back inside of the tackle’s vertical set. This is great scheming by Patrick Graham to allow Ximines a chance to leverage his quickness inside.
Here’s another play against Pittsburgh where he ends up getting put on the ground, which is not ideal, but the quick pass-rushing moves, combined with his speed up the arc, is just another way for him to utilize the trait of quickness.
It doesn’t have to be quickness with his lower body, but with his upper body as well. He is able to use both in conjunction with each other to stress the edge.
He violently clubs the tackle’s outside arm with his outside arm while using his inside arm to pull the inside shoulder pad of the tackle downward. It doesn’t do much for him on this rep, but it’s a solid way to put oneself into a good position for success.
Getting to different pass-rushing moves because of quick processing and quick hand movements also falls under the category of quickness.
This play isn’t very clean; he goes for the outside chop and misses, forwarding his momentum into the tackle. However, after the miss, he establishes his outside arm inside of the chest while using his inside arm underneath the tackle’s shoulder pad to force balance issues.
He then uses good torque to throw the tackle to the ground and go inside and disengage. It’s quick thinking, quick hands, and quick footwork that helped him achieve this - too bad it didn’t result in a sack.
The quickness hasn’t been in question for Ximines, who used it in his rookie season (above play, left side of the screen). He sees the inside rush alley open up, and he quickly uses his hands and athleticism to separate and sack Carson Wentz (No. 11).
Ximines has to use this trait to his advantage throughout camp to shine over the incoming rookie who also thrives with quickness and who is a bigger/longer athlete with much better explosiveness (according to testing numbers).
The Ugly: The Three Ps
I went over the three Ps before: Power, Pop, and Posterior Strength. I feel Ximines developed solidly in the brief tape we saw in 2020 in terms of Posterior Strength, but it’s still not ideally desirable.
The power and pop still need to grow as well if Ximines wants to become a complete player.
His bull-rush doesn’t threaten offensive tackles too much, and he doesn’t have the ability to generate power through his lower half and core to stress these blockers.
This can allow tackles to anticipate speed and quickness a bit more, rather than them just sitting on the anchor and hoping not to get bulled over.
We see that a bit above; Ximines has good position, starts from a wide alignment, and has his momentum heading towards McGlinchey, but the tackle can sit on the power and not be threatened by Ximines strength.
A one-dimensional pass rusher, who isn’t great against the run (though has improved), isn’t a player that a football team wants to play consistently.
It’s also a bit evident here. Ximines attempts using a stutter step to out position the tackle, and his chop does little to the outside arm.
The guard ends up forwarding his momentum up the arc a bit, but Ximines can’t generate anything from his legs to stress the tackle, and he gets stood up with his center of gravity being fully exposed. Jared Goff (No. 16) gets sacked from the back side, and the tackle lets go of Ximines, but the lack of strength in his lower leg drive, and the pop in his hands, are visible.
A big problem for Ximines in his rookie season was his inability to hold up at the point of attack. This improved in 2021 - but not nearly enough, and the lack of overall power and pop was still evident in the four-game sample size.
His frame isn’t overly large, and his success is mainly predicated on his quickness. If he could develop a bit more power, his game would be more well-rounded, which should go without typing. The EDGE group is more crowded in 2021, and snaps may be a bit more difficult to come by for Ximines.
He will have something to prove in training camp, and I hope to see more tape of him using that quickness to his advantage while showing a bit more strength in the coming season.
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