It’s an unusual rule to live in a 342-pound defensive tackle, but Dexter Lawrence never wants to lose his footing in front of a quarterback.
Sure enough, the Giants’ biggest defense was last Sunday, chasing a flailing Baker Mayfield to the sideline, hitting him to the first touchdown mark and firing the ball away from the stumble to exit fourth near the field. end of the first quarter.
“One of my goals is not to let a quarterback beat me,” Lawrence said. “This is a little competitive thing that I have in my head all the time. I was just trying to get it. I don’t think it’s crazy. It was a big third-rate play, so things like that are the way I go about it.”
Left play defense coordinator Wink Martindale — who was on the Ravens defensive coaching staff towards the end of a potential Hall of Famer Haloti Ngata career and call-up during Brandon Williams’ Pro Bowl season — is in awe. He highlighted it during Monday’s defense meeting.
“It’s a problem,” Martindale said. “The play in which Baker chased Mayfield, I don’t know that in my career I’ve seen a big guy like him play like that. That’s the kind of effort and drive he brings to defense.”
Lawrence’s role will be more important than ever on Monday when the Giants play for the Cowboys, and Leonard Williams – his home defense partner for the past three seasons – is expected to miss a game for the first time in his career. But it wouldn’t freak out a former first-round pick who Martindale called “one of my most favorite players in my life” after just six months together.
“It shows the confidence I’ve been gaining from him,” Lawrence said. “I just want to do my job in every game, and he knows I can do more – make the other guys come in and play hard. He helped me with things with little confidence or by letting me be a free player.”
Justin Ellis played under Martindale and with some of the most talented linebackers in the Baltimore NFL. Was he equally impressed by Lawrence’s athleticism in Keeping Up with Mayfield?
“It was amazing to see – I even told him,” said Ellis, who weighs 334 pounds. “It takes a lot of wanting to put your body into overdrive and get it going. He wasn’t quite as fast as a quarterback, but he was moving really well for a big guy, with great effort.”
Lawrence, who won’t be a free agent until after the 2023 season because the Giants exercised his fifth-year option, is also showing signs that he could get a little faster in Martindale’s defence. He has six pressures, including three quarterback strikes, through two games, and the season opener was the third-highest-passing game in Lawrence’s four-year career, according to Pro Football Focus.
“Hit balls, take him out, double-clutch him, put guys off his feet, little things like that affect the quarterback,” Lawrence said. “It’s hard to get a sack, and that’s what you’re all going to go through. Everything should go well, but if there’s any way to make the midfielder back down, that’s a win.”
The expected absence of Williams will not change as Lawrence lines up or his responsibilities. The Giants can bridge the gap with Ellis, with Jihad Ward moving inward after playing the last two games on the edge or with one lead while Martindale delves into his imagination to create a “positionless defense”.
“I just focus on getting into my groove and doing my best,” Ellis said. “Leonard is a special player, so it’s hard to fill that shoe.”
Lawrence’s Sunday boots just need to keep up with quarterback Cooper Rush. Later in the season, though, he’ll test his final velocity — running 5.05 seconds from a 40-yard dash from Clemson in 2019 — against Lamar Jackson and Galen Hurts.
“Maybe you chased after Kyler [Murray] Lawrence said. “I don’t think it really matters what a quarterback is. If I take a good angle, I can get it up or slow it down.”