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Dexter Lawrence: ‘You can’t replace Leonard’

Dexter Lawrence is happy for traded defensive tackle Leonard Williams, but didn’t sound thrilled with the situation

Los Angeles Rams v New York Giants Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

The New York Giants defense was shaken up on Monday afternoon when defensive tackle, and team captain, Leonard Williams was traded to the Seattle Seahawks.

Williams, along with Pro Bowl and All-Pro tackle Dexter Lawrence, have formed the core of the Giants’ defense since Williams was acquired (by trade) in 2019. The two combined to give the Giants a formidable defensive line and caused considerable headaches for opposing offensive lines.

“His (Williams’) impact was they’ve got to stop two rushers inside,” Lawrence said.

Williams currently ranks in the top 20 among all defensive tackles in ESPN’s Pass Rush Win Rate metric. His burst, athleticism, technique, and versatility have allowed Wink Martindale considerable room for creativity in scheming. The Giants will need to figure out some way to replace Williams in their defensive tackle rotation.

For his part, Lawrence has confidence in the rest of the defensive line room.

“I still trust the guys in the room like (defensive lineman) A’Shawn (Robinson) who has been playing well these last couple of games,” he said. “Nacho (defensive lineman Rakeem Nuñez-Roches) who has been playing well the whole season. The bond with them has been good as well. We’ve just got to keep going and going, it’s the nature of the business.”

Next man up is going to be the nature of things for the Giants. But replacing Williams’ presence on the defensive line is easier said than done, something Lawrence recognizes.

“He’s definitely a major piece and we’ve got to figure out a way to – I think we’ve done a good job of having other guys play those roles, come in the game and do well and make plays.”

He did strike philosophic tone when contemplating just how the Giants could replace Williams in their defensive tackle rotation. The answer that he settled on is that perhaps they just don’t replace him.

“Obviously, he’s [Williams] a great football player and [it’s] going to be hard to replace something like that,” Lawrence said. “The thing is, everybody doesn’t have to be a Leonard Williams, everybody doesn’t have to be a Dexter Lawrence. Nacho has to be a Nacho. AR has to be an AR, and they are still good players that can play in this league, that have played in this league for a long time. So, I don’t want to hear the things about how do we replace Leonard? You can’t replace Leonard, he’s only one of one. So, the next guys got to step up and do their job.”

Last year was the first time Leonard Williams had been to the playoffs since being drafted by the Jets in 2015. Lawrence was asked if Williams sees this as his chance to get back to the playoffs with the Seahawks currently leading the NFC West with a 5-2 record.

“I just think he saw it as a different opportunity,” he said. “If they didn’t want to trade him, I don’t think he would be traded in a sense, you know what I mean? I just think he sees it as an opportunity to go somewhere and shine.”