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Dexter Lawrence embraces high expectations in third season

Defensive lineman will be a cornerstone of Giants’ defense

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

The expectations around Dexter Lawrence are different as he enters his third NFL season.

Once something of an afterthought on a defensive line that featured Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson, Lawrence will be one of the New York Giants’ primary pass rushers now that Tomlinson is on the Minnesota Vikings. Now more than ever, he needs to live up to his first-round draft status.

Speaking to the media on the second day of Giants training camp, Lawrence reaffirmed that he is up to the challenge.

“I expect more from myself,” Lawrence said. “My main focus is helping the team win games. I push everybody in practice, the whole D-line, we root for each other.”

Lawrence improved in virtually every statistical category during his sophomore season, but knows that he can still get a better feel for playing defensive tackle. He has just 6.5 sacks over his first two years.

“My focus this offseason was learning the position more,” Lawrence said. “I know there was a lot that I watched myself on tape that I didn’t exactly know what to do. This whole offseason I worked on myself, I worked on learning my position.”

Tomlinson’s departure means that newcomer Danny Shelton will now be lining up next to Lawrence. Another former first-round pick, Shelton is known as a good-but-not-great player that lacks Tomlinson’s pedigree. But according to Lawrence, Shelton fits right in.

“Honestly, the group in whole, we all just bond and click,” Lawrence said. “We can coach each other. We can pick on each other. There’s no hard feelings with anything because everybody is genuine. Like I said, [Shelton] fits right in. He even brought some character to the room, so it’s not a lot of – it’s not like an intruder came. It’s kind of like, it just fits like a puzzle was put in.

“You treat them like your brother,” Lawrence said. “You help them get accustomed to the lifestyle that we know it is for the Giants, the culture that we’re trying to build and the chemistry.”

Lawrence was also quick to heap praise on Joe Judge one day after Kelvin Benjamin’s disparaging comments about the sophomore head coach.

“He’s very intense, but I feel like he prepares us each and every day for the game,” Lawrence said. So for us, it gets us excited for practice. I don’t know anybody that doesn’t like him. He relates to guys. He listens to us. He respects us. We respect him.

And of course, Lawrence has high hopes for a Giants’ defense that allowed an impressive 19.8 points per game over the second half of last season. He stopped short of making any postseason predictions, but the optimism is obvious.

“The sky’s the limit, for me. Anything is possible. Our mindset, our motto is to get better each and every day and that’s where we start, wanting to be great. We’re taking it day-by-day and focusing on the little things that turn into big things.”