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Dexter Lawrence is going to ‘keep being a force in the middle’

Lawrence feeling at home in new defensive system

NFL: New York Giants Minicamp John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Dexter Lawrence is not out to reinvent the wheel. He’s just here to finish what he started — whether that’s something minor like a skirmish with Shane Lemieux or a major milestone like helping the New York Giants earn their first playoff berth since 2016.

On Saturday, Lemieux tackled the 342-pound Lawrence after a play had concluded, leading to a brief fight after Leonard Williams came to Lawrence’s aid. But as Lawrence told reporters on Tuesday, the fight was indicative of what fans can expect from the defensive lineman this year. Not the part about fighting with teammates, of course. The part about taking care of business.

“I didn’t start it, I finished it,” Lawrence said. “I guess somehow, he ended up on the ground, and he thought it was me. That’s how it happened. Got the wrap in, and that’s how it happened. We have lockers right next to each other, so it was nothing.”

That philosophy extends to Lawrence’s role within the revamped Giants’ defense. Lawrence, entering his fourth season in New York, will be playing for his third defensive coordinator in Wink Martindale. Last year, Lawrence was used mostly to plug up the middle of the line while allowing edge defenders like Azeez Ojulari to take care of pressuring the quarterback. Lawrence was reluctant to give any indication that that will change, even in Martindale’s blitz-oriented system.

“At the end of the day, it’s football. I don’t think my usage is different,” Lawrence said. “I’m a force in the middle, and I’m going to keep being that. The NFL is a passing league, so it’s going to be a lot of pass rush on different first and second downs and probably more on third downs sometimes. So, it’s just going out there every play.”

Of course, all the aggression in the world will be meaningless if it does not translate into on-field success. Despite Lawrence’s veteran status, the Giants’ track record is such that he has yet to sniff so much as a winning record during his NFL career. When a reporter referenced the fact that Lawrence has yet to play in the postseason, Lawrence was quick to add the word “yet” to the end of the statement.

“It is a realistic goal. It’s everybody’s goal,” Lawrence said. “You can’t sit on what happened years prior. You’ve got to go for what you’re shooting for now. Everybody’s goal is to make it to the postseason. If everybody has the same goal, we’re all going to have the same work ethic to try to get there.”

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Lawrence had winning on his mind the same day Eli Manning came to visit the training facility. Manning’s final season was Lawrence’s rookie year.

“I always call him the GOAT,” Lawrence said. “I mess around with him and all this stuff, but you know, it’s good to see his face. It’s been a while since he could actually come around and talk because of COVID and stuff, but it’s good to hear the message from him today.

And what did Manning have to say?

“Just come out and trust in the process. Being a good teammate and being a good person to people you’re around every day, competing. You know, if you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse type of thing. Just having that mental thing going through camp is good.”

Now let’s see if some of that Eli magic rubs off on the rest of the team.