Quincy Roche was in the middle of learning how to be an NFL player when he had to briefly learn about not quite being an NFL player.
The sixth-round pick this year was a victim of the Steelers’ roster cutdown Aug. 31. He knew being waived was a possibility, as he was struggling to become a special-teams factor, but he didn’t know what would come next.
“I’m a rookie. I didn’t know how this thing works,” the outside linebacker told The Post on Friday. “I didn’t even know what a waiver wire was.”
Joe Judge had seen Roche at the University of Miami’s Pro Day in March. Once he was waived, the Giants pounced.
Three months later, Roche said he is “thrilled” by how it all has worked out, and the Giants must be getting happier every week.
The Giants’ defense has begun hitting its stride in the middle of the season, which probably is too late to salvage much for this year. But a big factor in the unit’s recent success is the 23-year-old’s emergence, which could bode well for both the Giants’ and Roche’s future.
Roche believes he has gotten better each week, and his playing time is beginning to provide evidence of that. He did not dress until Week 3 and barely played that week and the next. He was on the field for 14 percent of the Giants’ defensive snaps in Week 5 against the Cowboys. That increased to 36 percent the following week, when he flashed against the Panthers (three tackles, one for a loss).
On Monday at Kansas City, 2018 third-round pick Lorenzo Carter missed the game with an ankle injury. It was supposed to be 2019 third-round pick Oshane Ximines who stepped up. Instead, Roche took the field and looked like an outside linebacker who could make a difference.
In his first career start, Roche had three tackles, including a solo stop of Derrick Gore for a 1-yard loss.
In 488 combined defensive snaps this year, Carter and Ximines have combined for one tackle for a loss and three quarterback hits. In Roche’s 89 defensive snaps, he has two tackles for a loss and a hit of Patrick Mahomes.
If the final nine games do not mean much in terms of the playoffs, the focus will be on evaluating how players such as Roche take advantage of their opportunities.
“I made a decision the first couple of weeks to take the approach that I’m going to prepare every day as if it is my shot,” Roche said. “So from Week 1, I’ve just been trying to take the same approach. … Obviously they’re calling my number more now.”
This week, defensive coordinator Patrick Graham pointed at the sled work Roche did early in the season, saying he could see the progression even before it was shown on game days.
“We anticipated this guy being able to make plays and we shared that, expressed that with everybody,” Graham said. “He went out there and did it, so it’s a credit to him working hard.”
Carter will be out Sunday against the Raiders at MetLife Stadium, so Roche again will see more time. The Giants will take potential draft steals any way they can find them — even if the draft pick wasn’t theirs.