There has been a lot of talk about how much Daniel Jones might contribute for the Giants this season. Curiously, the talk about fellow first round pick Dexter Lawrence has been relatively quiet. The truth is, the big defensive tackle will almost certainly impact the team’s win/loss total in 2019 more than the rookie quarterback.
The former Clemson star slots right into a defensive front that needs to find a difference maker. Neither B.J. Hill or Dalvin Tomlinson projects to be a player who is going to keep offensive coordinators up at night. At his best, Lawrence has the potential to be a guy who can make a ton of plays in the opposing backfield.
The key for him will be to make sure that his level of consistency increases drastically from his college days. When you watch tape of Lawrence at Clemson you get a chance to see some truly eye-popping athleticism. The downside is that you don’t see his motor run hot for full games. Instead, Lawrence looks like a dominant player in stretches before fading into the background for drives at a time.
That inconsistency is what allowed him to drop all the way to pick No. 17 in April’s draft. That should be a steal for the Giants if they can get the most out of the 6-foot-4, 342-pound defensive lineman. Pat Shurmur and his defensive coaching staff need to make working with Lawrence a massive priority as the preseason rolls along.
There’s little doubt that Lawrence can help stop opponents from gashing the Giants with inside runs. His sheer size makes him a difficult match-up for all but the largest guards in the NFL. Lawrence has the burst and strength to overpower guards who rely on their technique to win match-ups on the inside. His own technique will need work, but he can simply engulf smaller interior lineman at the point of attack.
Where the Giants really need to develop Lawrence is with his work as a pass rusher. Remember, New York lost last year’s top sack artist Oliver Vernon this offseason. His total of seven sacks on the season was far from prolific, but it still registered as the team’s highest total. Someone will need to pick up that load and exceed it if this defense is going to progress in 2019.
If the Giants want Lawrence to be that guy they may need to move him around on passing downs. It may seem unorthodox to put a 342-pound behemoth at defensive end, but it could help simplify the game for Lawrence on obvious passing downs. New York’s propensity to stick with a three-man front will allow opposing teams to double team the rookie with ease. Moving him out to the edge would give him more opportunities to work one-on-one with tackles tasked with keeping their quarterbacks safe.
Eli Manning’s inability to lead this offense to great heights will place a ton of pressure on the defense to keep the Giants in games. The team is blessed with above average talent in the secondary, but there are big questions over whether or not the front can really hold up their end of the bargain. Lawrence looks like the one player in New York’s front seven that has a legitimate chance to blossom into a star. That is a lot of pressure to put on a rookie, but it’s the hand Lawrence has been dealt.
If you’re thinking that the Giants need a lot of things to go perfectly make a playoff run in 2018 take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone. Oddsmakers are sticking firm to the idea that winning more than six games would be a major accomplishment for Shurmer and company. If you’re particularly down on Lawrence’s ability to make an immediate impact then you can find a way to bet on New York to win less than 5.5 games.
The more likely outcome for Lawrence and his new team is that it takes at least a full season for the group to really hit their stride. Giants fans should be more concerned with how Lawrence is playing in Week 10 than they are with his output in Week 1. He’s a player with prodigious talent, but expecting him to play like a Pro Bowler during his rookie season is a likely setup for disappointment.
Giants fans looking for hope should keep a close eye on both the franchise’s first round picks this season. They should see a lot more of Lawrence than Jones if things go according to plan. New York needs Lawrence to emerge as a star for both their present and future prospects. If he flops it may set the Giants’ defense back for several more seasons.
By Rucker Haringey