Under new defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale, the New York Giants are going to have a new look on that side of the ball.
For veteran defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence, that is especially true. The 342-pound former first-round draft pick is one of several Giants players who’s raving about the versatility of Martindale’s defensive scheme.
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“We just have so many guys that can play every position pretty much, and that’s exciting,” Lawrence said, via the Giants’ official website. “You’re not just categorizing us as one thing. I can be playing linebacker, or I can be playing end. Anything really.”
Did he just say linebacker? At nearly 350 pounds??
Seriously, try to imagine a man of this size roaming the second level of the defense out of a two-point stance.
That’s scary. And also wildly creative on Martindale’s part.
Lawrence, 24, has played a major role in the Giants defense since his rookie season. He has only missed one game as a pro and has started 41 of the 48 games in which he has appeared. Although he’s most effective as a space-eater against the run, Lawrence has also managed to rack up 9.0 sacks and 30 QB hits in three seasons.
Earlier this offseason, the Giants picked up Lawrence’s fifth-year contract option, signaling that he’s firmly in the new regime’s future plans. And when you hear him describe his versatility in Martindale’s defense, that notion is only further reinforced.
Now, let’s hear what other Giants players are saying about Martindale’s defense.
Leonard Williams: Giants Defense is ‘More Fun’ Under Wink
If there’s one player the Giants want to unleash on defense this season, it’s Leonard Williams. He is the highest-paid player on the team with a salary cap hit of $27.3 million in 2022, according to Spotrac.
Williams is 28 years old and entering his eighth NFL season, but he’s soaking in Martindale’s defensive scheme with newfound zeal.
“There have been a lot of defenses, a lot of defensive coordinators I’ve played for in my career, but this has definitely been one of the more fun ones,” Williams said on the Giants Huddle podcast (h/t Giants.com). “Playing with Wink and this type of system, guys are just flying around. You kind of have to know more than just one position because at any moment, you can be blitzing from a different position on the field. It makes it fun.”
Williams notched a career-high 11.5 sacks in 2020, but that total dipped to just 6.5 sacks as he fought through an elbow/triceps injury last season.
With Martindale’s help, Williams may be able to rediscover his 2020 form.
“Usually, a defense is reacting to what the offense is giving us,” Williams said, via Giants.com. “We’re playing such an aggressive, attack [style] that the offense has to change what we’re doing. It makes it really fun.”
As encouraging as it is to hear players like Williams and Lawrence rave about the new scheme, let’s listen to a couple guys who have already played under Martindale.
Ex-Raven Justin Ellis: ‘I Love Coach Wink’
Martindale previously served as defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens, and a couple players that followed him to the Giants this offseason were veteran defensive linemen Justin Ellis and Jihad Ward.
Ellis has been in the NFL since 2014 and spent the past three seasons in Baltimore with Martindale.
“It’s great because it’s hard for an offense to really be sure of what we’re doing,” Ellis said of Martindale’s scheme, via Giants.com. “You just never know what we’re doing each week. Some things look like something it’s not. But it’s just a great defense to be in. I love Coach Wink and how aggressive it is.”
Ward has six NFL seasons under his belt, including two alongside Ellis in Baltimore (2019-2020). He’s now reunited with Martindale in New York, after spending last season with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“This scheme and this defense has been real successful,” Ward told Giants.com. “All you have to do is just trust the process. Back when I was in Baltimore, everybody was just trusting it. I believe we have a group of guys that can trust the process and a brotherhood, as well. This defense is great. All I can say is pressure breaks pipes.”