It’s an unusual rule to live up to a 342-pound defensive tackle, but Dexter Lawrence never wants to lose a foottrace to a quarterback.
Sure enough, the Giants were the biggest man of the defense last Sunday, chasing down a scrambling Baker Mayfield, knocking him off the first-down marker and loose ball to bring the ball down fourth out of bounds. Knocked on End of first quarter.
“One of my goals is never to let the quarterback get ahead of me,” Lawrence said. “It’s a little competitive thing that’s on my mind all the time. I was just trying to get him to go. I don’t think it’s crazy. It was a big third-down play, so stuff like that.” How do I keep going?”
The play left defensive coordinator Vink Martindale—who was on the Ravens defensive coaching staff at the end of the career of potential Hall of Famer Haloti Ngata—and calling out plays during Brandon Williams’ Pro Bowl season in astonishment. He highlighted this during Monday’s defensive meeting.
“That’s a problem,” Martindale said. “In the play he chased down Baker Mayfield, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a big man like him do a play like that. He brings this kind of effort and leadership to the defense.”
Lawrence’s role will be more important than ever when the Giants play the Cowboys, and Leonard Williams – his teammate on the inner defensive line for the past three seasons – is expected to miss a game for the first time in his career. But it won’t rattle a former first-round pick, whom Martindale described as “one of my favorite players in my life” after only six months of being together.
“It just shows the trust I’m earning from him,” Lawrence said. “I just want to do my job in every play, and he knows I can do a little more – ask other people to come along and work harder. He’s less confident in things or wants me to be an independent player.” Helped me by giving permission.”
Justin Ellis played under Martindale and in Baltimore with some of the most talented defensive linemen in the NFL. Was he equally impressed by Lawrence’s athleticism in synchronizing with Mayfield?
“It was amazing to see — even I told her,” said Alice, 334 pounds. “It took a lot to put his body into overdrive and get it. He wasn’t at the pace of a linebacker, but he was moving well for a big man with great effort.”
Lawrence, who will not be a free agent until after the 2023 season as the Giants exercise his fifth-year option, is also showing signs that he could become a pass rusher in defense of Martindale. According to Pro Football Focus, he has six pressures through two games, including three quarterback hits, and the season opener was the third-highest-graded pass-rushing game of Lawrence’s four-year career.
“Batting on the ball, getting him out of place, making him double-clutch, getting people off his feet, little things like that affect the quarterback,” Lawrence said. “Getting a sack is hard, and that’s all you do. Everything has to be perfect, but if there’s a way to get the quarterback to blink, it’s a win.”
Williams’ anticipated absence will not change where Lawrence line-up or his responsibilities. The Giants could plug the hole with Ellis, Jihad Ward going inside after playing the last two games on the sidelines or with a one-off front as Martindale dips into his imagination to create a “position-less defense.”
“I’m just focused on getting into my groove and getting my best game,” Ellis said. “Leonard is a special player, so it’s hard to fill those shoes.”
Lawrence’s shoes on Sunday only need to be filled in by quarterback Cooper Rush. Later in the season, however, he would test his closing pace—he ran a 5.05-second 40-yard dash from Clemson in 2019—against Lamar Jackson and Jalen Hurts.
“I Could Follow Kyler” [Murray] Once,” Lawrence said. “I don’t think it really matters which quarterback it is. If I take a good angle, I can probably get him or slow him down.”