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PFF: Giants have two of NFL’s best 32 defensive linemen

New York’s interior line was stacked in 2020

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NFL: DEC 09 Giants at Eagles

New York Giants defenders Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence have both earned spots on Pro Football Focus’ list of the top 32 interior defensive lineman.

PFF released its list Tuesday morning. To the surprise of few, Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald took the top spot, the fifth year in a row he has done so.

Williams grabbed the ninth spot while Lawrence, the Giants first round pick in 2019, took 16th spot.

Here’s what PFF had to say about both players:

9. Leonard Williams

Dallas Cowboys v New York Giants Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

“Williams turned a career 2020 year with the Giants into a three-year, $63 million contract this offseason. His reliability and durability over the course of his career provide at least some level of assurance that the Giants will continue to get strong production moving forward. Williams is one of just four interior defenders with at least 3,000 regular-season defensive snaps since he entered the league in 2015, and he’s been the fourth-most valuable player at the position over that span, per PFF WAR.

“The only reason Williams doesn’t land higher on the list is that he hasn’t shown much of a ceiling as a pass-rusher. Despite putting up 62 pressures in 2020, he finished with just a 69.9 pass-rushing grade.”

16. Dexter Lawrence

San Francisco 49ers v New York Giants Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

“The Giants’ interior defensive line is loaded with talent, even following the loss of Dalvin Tomlinson in free agency. Lawrence found ways to improve in 2020 (79.7 overall grade) off a strong rookie debut in 2019 (76.2 overall grade). That was especially true on pass plays, as he bumped his pass-rush grade from 64.5 as a rookie to 73.2 last season. You’ll take that kind of impact from a defensive tackle listed at over 340 pounds without hesitation.”

Giants interior line in 2020 was plentiful

Dallas Cowboys v New York Giants Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Of interesting note from the new PPF rankings was the addition of former Giants defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, now with the Minnesota Vikings, at the 17th spot.

That means the Giants had three of the top 32 defensive lineman last season. This may not be news to Giants fans given the line’s clearly strong play.

Danny Shelton likely fills Tomlinson’s shoes in 2022

It begs the question who can fill that third man spot in the defensive line rotation in 2022 following Tomlinson’s departure for Minneapolis.

The most likely answer is run-stuffer Danny Shelton, himself a former first-round pick out of Washington in 2015. Shelton spent the past two seasons in New England after Cleveland, the team that drafted him, traded him away.

The Patriots declined Shelton’s fifth-year option, paving his way to free agency, and ultimately, East Rutherford.