Many expect (hope) Daniel Jones will be the New York Giant that takes the biggest leap forward in 2021. However, Patrik Walker of CBS Sports has another third-year pro in mind. While we could question the sentiment of labeling Dexter Lawrence as a “potential breakout player” we can’t argue the logic. While the former first-round pick has certainly lived up to his draft status over his first two seasons in East Rutherford, an improved arsenal placed around him could catapult Lawrence amongst the elite defenders at his position.
Here’s what Walker had to say:
Leonard Williams is secured and rookie linebacker Azeez Olujari is impressing in OTAs, but let’s not go overlooking Lawrence. This time two years ago, he was the first-round pick in New York, and he’s been starting since. That said, it’s fair to demand more from him, seeing as he has only 6.5 sacks in his first two seasons, but four of them landed in 2020 (nearly doubling his production as a rookie) which shows the needle on his potential is aimed due north. With Williams coming off of a breakout season, the presence of Olujari, Blake Martinez (and others) and a seemingly upgraded secondary, Lawrence should see room to impose his will upon opposing offenses more in Year 3. And if he wants the Giants to start considering picking up his fifth-year option, now’s the time to break out and make sure they do.
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Blake Martinez Gushes Over Lawrence
It’s not every day you see a 6-foot-4-inch, 342-pound behemoth capable of the movement skills Lawrence possesses. Two full seasons in and the athletic marvel continues to turn heads, even amongst some of the world’s most elite athletes.
“Dexter Lawrence is another freak of nature, he basically is just a little taller (than Danny Shelton), so he kind of looks a little more thinned out. We call him the ‘Juggernaut.’ As in the Marvel Comics character: He pretty much runs through anything and nothing can stop that dude,” linebacker Blake Martinez told the New York Post.
Lawrence Took a Major Leap Forward as a Pass Rusher in Year 2
As a rookie in 2019, Lawrence came out the gates hot, finishing his inaugural NFL season with 38 tackles, 2.5 sacks, three TFL, nine QB hits and one forced fumble. His efforts helped earn him a Pro Football Focus grade of 76.2, the highest mark handed out to any rookie defensive tackle on the year. Furthermore, his four games with an overall PFF grade of 80.0-plus were the most by any player in his draft class, regardless of position.
Not to be outdone, Lawrence followed up his rookie campaign by improving his statistical output across the board, posting career highs in sacks (4.0), tackles (53), tackles for loss (six) and quarterback hits (10). Lawrence’s improvement — namely as a pass-rusher — helped land him at No. 16 on PFF’s best interior defender list entering the 2021 NFL season.
The Giants’ interior defensive line is loaded with talent, even following the loss of Dalvin Tomlinson in free agency. Lawrence found ways to improve in 2020 (79.7 overall grade) off a strong rookie debut in 2019 (76.2 overall grade). That was especially true on pass plays, as he bumped his pass-rush grade from 64.5 as a rookie to 73.2 last season. You’ll take that kind of impact from a defensive tackle listed at over 340 pounds without hesitation.
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