A 340-pound defensive tackle might not be expected to have a lot of positional flexibility, New York Giants defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence said Tuesday that Wink Martindale’s defense requires exactly that.
Now a fourth-year pro, the Clemson-raised run-stuffer told reporters that the Giants defense is a flexible one, with guys available to take on a wide range of duties.
“We play every position pretty much, so I don’t think it’s just necessarily I’m stuck in the middle being a run stopper,” said Lawrence. “Everybody can do anything in this defense, which is good. I can drop, I can rush off the edge, I can play linebacker, blitz, little things like that. We’re all learning how to manipulate the scheme.”
“Leo [Leonard Williams] can play zero, I can play five, so it’s like we’re just learning the whole defense just to know where you can potentially be.”
Learning was the word of the day on Tuesday as Lawrence said that the defense was focused on good communication, since they’ve only just begun working together as a full unit. It’s also because they’ve been running exotic, unique looks under new defensive coordinator Don Martindale, a known blitzing fiend.
“You need to have that on defense. That’s what I’m liking most about it, making us talk to each other, learn what everybody around us has, because we could potentially have that,” he said. “I mean, right now we’re over-communicating, which you need. We’re still learning the defense, trying to get comfortable with it. Yeah, at practice we are still talking on the field.”
Lawrence was clearly into Martindale’s aggressive style of defense - one imagines any defensive lineman would be. But he also acknowledged its “kind of hard to pick up.” Overall though, he didn’t seem too worried.
As most of you are well aware, the Giants performed poorly on defense in the 2021 season. The team finished 21st in the NFL, allowing 354 yards per game, including 129 rush yards per game, good for eighth worst in the league. Lawrence said that stopping the run was the unit’s goal.
“That’s everybody’s role. That’s our team’s goal, is to stop the run. You know, I feel like that’s who I am kind of right now. Just making sure everybody understands we’ve got to do this first then pass rush.”
Lawrence, now somewhat of a veteran, also talked about his stature in the league.
“I’m becoming an older guy and have more responsibility to be a leader,” said the 24-year-old.
His best year came in 2021 when he recorded 54 tackles, one more than his previous high of 53 in 2020. He dropped off from 4.0 sacks in 2020 to 2.5 sacks last season, but he also recorded a career high 11 QB hits. Lawrence also started 16 games in each of his three NFL seasons.
Lawrence was asked about the impression he is not a good pass rusher.
“I don’t know what the league thinks,” Lawrence said. “I just go out there and just play football really. Whatever happens after each play, during each play, happens. I just control what I can do each week and each day, and that’s get better.”
From the way his stats are projecting, this year may well be a huge season for Lawrence.