Revealing Osi Umenyiora's Pass-Rushing Advice to Oshane Ximines

Patricia Traina

When former Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora looks at edge rusher Oshane Ximines on tape, he likes what he sees.

As in really likes what he sees.

“He plays hard and is technically he's a lot better than I was as a rookie, that's for sure,” Umenyiora recently told Giants Country by phone from his home in London.

That sentiment isn’t just a matter of Umenyiora, whose 75.0 career sacks rank him fourth on the franchise’s all-time list, trying to be polite.

In Ximines, he sees what he described as a “slippery dude” with an impressive set of skills and tools that, after playing his college ball for Old Dominion University, has the look of becoming the Giants’ next homegrown, productive pass rusher.

Umenyiora, who played his college ball at Troy, knows a thing about the challenges of transitioning from a smaller school. The Giants’ second-round pick in 2003 went on to play nine seasons with the Giants, for whom he averaged 8.3 sacks per season and reached double-digit sacks three times in 2005, 2007, and 2010.

So when a fan on Twitter suggested to Ximines, who as a rookie drew comparisons to a young Umenyiora, reach out to the two-time Super Bowl champion and two-time Pro Bowler, Ximines, who lists Umenyiora as someone whose game he admired growing up, was game.

Umenyiora happened to see Ximines’ response and wasted little time responding on Twitter. Soon the two were following each other, and Umenyiora sent Ximines his phone number. 

Because of the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic, Umenyiora hasn’t been able to schedule a trip to the U.S. to work with Ximines in person, but he did say they recently had a productive conversation via text message.

While the physical and technique stuff will have to wait until both are face-to-face, the mental and formulating a pass rush plan are just some topics Umenyiora addressed with Ximines.

In creating a pass-rush plan, Umenyiora said he told Ximines that it’s important for the youngster to study as many different pass rushers, both current and past, and gather information to incorporate into his game.

That’s what Umenyiora did in developing his signature “chop-club” move. He learned that move by studying an undrafted pass rusher by the name of James Hall, who racked up 62.0 career sacks over his career, which included stops with the Lions (2000-06) and Rams (2007-11).

By studying Hall’s version and then incorporating his own little twist to it, the chop-club became Umenyiora’s signature pass rush move.

Umenyiora also told Ximines that to be a successful pass rusher, every single look he gives pre-snap has to be the same.

“You have to set up offensive lineman,” he said. “Say, for instance, you are a speed rusher, and you want to change things up and power rush on a play and then bull rush on another. 

"You want the offensive lineman to think that you're speed rushing. And then when you're speed rushing, you want him to think that your power rushing. You have to be able to set up your pass rush moves where everything looks the same way to the offensive linemen.

“If you're able to do that, then the offensive lineman will be big trouble because to block speed rush, you have to set up a certain way. To block a bull rush, you have to set a certain way. If the offensive lineman doesn't know which one is coming, he's literally at your mercy.”

To illustrate his point, Umenyiora told the story from the 2005 season when Chiefs offensive tackle Willie Roaf seemed to know everything Umenyiora was planning.

“He was telling his teammates every time I was running a stunt, and I didn’t know how he knew,” Umenyiora said. “Later that year, I caught up with him and asked him how he knew, and he said he noticed on film how I was changing my stance when we ran a stunt versus when we didn’t. 

"At the time, I was like, ‘Wow, they pay attention to those little things like that?’ So yeah, that’s why it’s important for Ximines to make every pass rush look the same.”

Making the Switch 

When Umenyiora joined the Giants, he did so as a 4-3 defensive end, the same position Ximines played at Old Dominion.

Whereas Umenyiora remained as a 4-3 defensive end, Ximines moved to outside linebacker in the Giants' base 3-4 defense, a position he's projected to see a lot of snaps at this year.

Umenyiora said the transition isn’t as hard as people think and points to guys like DeMarcus Ware, Von Miller, and Chandler Jones as guys whose film Ximines might want to study.

“The only thing is as outside linebacker there asking you to drop into coverage,” Umenyiora said, “So you gotta be able to read the offense and those things, as opposed to firing off the ball in a pass rush. 

"(ximines) is going to be pushing off both feet from a stand-up position as opposed to having a hand in the ground and, you know, using that to propel yourself forward," Umenyiora added. "But if he studies Ware, Miller, Jones, and guys who have done it, I think he’ll be fine.”

Umenyiora was asked what kind of role he envisioned Ximines having in the Giants' defense.

“Well, if it were me, I would never put him in a tight five (technique), which is right on the foot of the offensive tackle. I don't think that makes any sense at all,” Umenyiora said.

“In pass-rushing, he needs to be a little wider because he needs to threaten that edge with his speed and his explosiveness.

“In run situations, if there's a tight end out there, I'd want him lined up, head-up against the tight end to control the C-gap, or have him shaded outside of the tight end so he can control the D-gap.”

Umenyiora also scoffed at the notion that Ximines is a liability against the run.

“He's not 280, 290 pounds, so he's never going to be a guy that is going to collapse the run game or push these 350-pound guys into the backfield on the run, and I think it would be unfair to ask him to do that,” Umenyiora said.

“I think what he needs to focus on is maintaining his gap integrity. I think he does a pretty good job at that, though, I think he needs to be a bit firmer in that area.

"His game, because he's a smaller frame guy, is going to be about getting after that quarterback. 

"As for the run, he needs to get a little bit stronger to maintain his gaps so that they’re not just running the ball at him for five, six yards at a time. He needs to be stronger at the point of attack to hold his leverage.”

Embrace the Rush

If nothing else, Umenyiora’s hopes for Ximines to develop a true love affair with the art of pass-rushing.

“Once you learn the pass rush—I mean you really start to understand its true dynamics and develop a passion on the NFL level and the rewards that come from it—man, it's amazing,” Umenyiora said.

He pointed to his own experience and how, when he embraced the art of pass rushing—and he emphasized it is an art form —suddenly, a whole new level of his game was unlocked.

“For me, it became very difficult for me to think of anything other than getting to the quarterback,” Umenyiora said. 

“Once the season started, like I was so focused on it. And once you develop that hunger and that love, there’s just no turning back from a whole new level, you can reach.”