clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Giants have two players in top 12 of PFF defensive line rankings

Dexter Lawrence, Leonard Williams earn praise

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Carolina Panthers v New York Giants Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The New York Giants are well-represented at the interior defensive line position; well, at least according to Gordon McGuinness’ IDL rankings for Pro Football Focus. McGuinness ranked the top32 interior defensive linemen in the league, and the Giants had TWO in the top 12.

Dexter Lawrence ranked third behind Rams’ Aaron Donald and Chris Jones of the Kansas City Chiefs. McGuinness wrote:

“Lawrence experienced a breakout 2022 season, earning a career-best 91.6 PFF grade. And at just 25 years old, he still has room to grow and could threaten Donald and Jones with another big season. Including the playoffs, he produced 70 pressures on 577 pass-rushing snaps, proving to be a disruptive force for opposing offenses all year long.”

Leonard Williams, acquired by then-GM Deave Gettleman in a controversial 2019 trade, ranked No. 12. McGuinness wrote:

The sixth overall pick in 2015, Williams has been a high-floor player since arriving in the NFL. Throughout his eight-year career, he has never earned a PFF grade lower than 70.5. He’s solid both as a run defender and as a pass rusher and doesn’t really have a weakness to his game.

McGuiness’ description of Williams as a high-floor player resonates. Outside of the 2020 season, Williams never had more than seven sacks in a given year. He also never missed a game due to injury until this past season, where he earned 2.5 sacks and 42 pressures on 417 pass-rushing reps.

Most 6-foot-5, 302-pound defensive linemen with almost 35-inch arms don’t move or bend in the manner that Williams is capable. Williams has never had less than 42 pressures (last year) in a given season. He’s also a very good run defender. I’m not surprised he cracked the top 12, despite an injury-riddled season that was arguably his worst as a professional.

The combination of Lawrence and Williams is a Rocky Marciano one-two punch for interior offensive lines control. That’s no easy task. As we saw last season, even with their talent, they shouldn’t shoulder the burden of the entire defensive line room. New York made important additions in the offseason that can bolster the Giants’ defense up front.

Adding veterans Rakeem Nunez-Roches, A’Shawn Robinson, and maybe even Jordon Riley should help the defense that surrendered the 28th-most rushing yards in the NFL. These additions, along with Bobby Okereke at linebacker, should help fortify Wink Martindale’s unit.

Quinnen Williams (Jets) and Cameron Heyward (Steelers) round out the top five. Here are the next six:

6. DeForest Buckner, Colts
7. Jonathan Allen, Commanders
8. Christian Wilkins, Dolphins
9. D.J. Reader, Bengals
10. Jeffrey Simmons, Titans
11. Derrick Brown, Panthers