We’ve been remarking all summer long that there’s a renewed sense of hope surrounding the New York Giants as we head into the 2023 NFL season.
The Giants’ excellent coaching staff returns largely intact under Coach of The Year Brian Daboll, and the Giants have several young players who are pushing to be among the best at their positions in the NFL.
Two of those players, left tackle Andrew Thomas and defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, are representing the Giants in Mike Jones’ list of the Top 25 players under 25 (subscription required) for The Athletic.
The list was voted on by NFL coaches and executives from a pool of players 25 years old (or younger), who had received All-Rookie, All-Pro, or Pro Bowl honors.
12. OT Andrew Thomas, New York Giants, age: 24 (1/22/99)
As a third-year pro, Thomas surrendered just three sacks as the blind-side protector for a much-improved Daniel Jones and also played a role in Saquon Barkley’s resurgence while earning second-team All-Pro honors.
13. DT Dexter Lawrence, New York Giants, age: 25 (11/12/97)
Lawrence thrived in Don “Wink” Martindale’s defense last season, recording 7½ sacks, 68 tackles (seven for a loss) and 28 quarterback hits, all career highs. He has established himself as one of the best young interior linemen in the game.
It’s interesting that these two players are consecutively ranked in the list, not just because they’re teammates, but because they’ve had somewhat opposite paths to start their careers.
Thomas had a famously rocky rookie season but steadily improved following that first bye week back in 2020. The second half of 2020 showed glimmers of the upside he showed in Georgia, he had a steady 2021 campaign, and emerged as an outstanding tackle in 2022. Now, Thomas is in the conversation among the top offensive tackles in the NFL, and deserves his spot on the list.
Lawrence, meanwhile, has flashed brightly since being drafted, but only smoothed out the lulls in his play this past season. Lawrence was always an impressive player thanks to his obvious strength and rare athleticism for his size. However, his technique was never as impressive as his traits, and kept him from consistently playing up to his potential. At least not until 2022.
Mike Jones credits Lawrence’s 2022 season to Wink Martindale, and Wink’s schemes certainly had an effect. His use of alignment and overload to create opportunity definitely had an effect for Lawrence. However, we need to acknowledge the role DL coach Andre Patterson has played.
In many ways, Lawrence had a similar career path as former Giant Linval Joseph, who was drafted in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Like Lawrence, Joseph is a mammoth human who had rare athletic traits for his size. He was a good player in the middle of the Giants’ defensive line, but never quite played up to his potential. Until, that is, the Giants elected to let him leave in free agency and he landed with Coach Patterson in Minnesota. Patterson corrected Joseph’s technique and unlocked his potential.
Now, it seems Coach Patterson has done the same with Lawrence. This is his last chance to be on a “25 Under 25” list, but Lawrence should be a perennial Pro Bowl or All-Pro selection if he can maintain his level of play.
Jones did exclude rookies from the “25 Under 25” list, but he didn’t exclude them from his “All-Under-25 Team”.
Thomas and Lawrence obviously made the team at offensive and defensive line, respectively. But Jones also added Giants edge Kayvon Thibodeaux to the team as a linebacker, as well.
About Thibodeaux he says, “Thibodeaux, who earned All-Rookie honors, impressed in 2022, proving himself to be both versatile and disruptive for the Giants defense. Look for a significant leap forward in 2023 for the 22-year-old.”
I’m pretty sure the Giants would love it if Thibodeaux and (or) Azeez Ojulari (23) could succeed Lawrence as he ages off the “25 Under 25” list.