The Giants selected defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence with the 17th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, their second of three first-round selections.
Lawrence is a 6’4", 342-pound defensive tackle that is more than just a run stuffer. Lawrence has impressive change of direction and lower body explosiveness that is paired with solid pass-rushing moves for his size.
In base situations, the Giants ran a lot of tite fronts. Now-former defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson was typically at the nose, with Lawrence as the 4i-technique to the strength and Leonard Williams as the 3-technique to the weak side.
Tite fronts (Bear, Eagle, etc.) provide a more difficult path for offenses to create double teams at the point of attack on that 4i shade because everything is so, well, tight.
Not being able to create double teams up front help negate an effective inside zone and DUO attack. Lawrence was adept in this role as the 4i shade with the Giants.
In 2nd-and-intermediate and third-down situations, Lawrence wasn’t always removed from the field. He would align all over the defensive front, imposing his will and strength on an offensive lineman. He was effective in the passing situations aligned as a 1-technique or nose.
Lawrence ended up with 53 snaps as a 1-technique, 23 as a true nose, 133 as a 5-technique or more, and 430 as a 3-or 4-technique. He’s currently heading into his third season, first without Tomlinson.
Some speculate that Lawrence will become the full-time nose; while I believe he has some capability to do so, I don’t, however, feel that’s his best and most desired employment.
Lawrence is quick, powerful, and intelligent. At the 4i-technique, he can burst upfield when necessary, read/react to the blocking patterns when asked, and then make the correct decision based on the context of the offensive play. Having a player of that size on the inside shoulder of the strong side tackle, with an outside linebacker and a 2i/1-technique poses blocking problems upfront for opposing rushing attacks.
New York signed Danny Shelton to help fill the void left by Tomlinson's departure. At least for some snaps, this signing should allow Lawrence to avoid the nose spot on early downs; this will allow him to showcase his unique skill-set as he continues to grow as an NFL player.
Let’s see how he performed in his second NFL season in this version of the Good, the Great, and the Ugly.
(Dexter Lawrence is No. 97)
The Good: Pass-rushing Upside
A player with Lawrence’s size should have the lower body strength to push the pocket from the interior --and Lawrence has plenty of that.
Lawrence is aligned over the center as a true nose in this passing situation. He uses his left arm to jolt the center’s shoulder backward at the snap, immediately putting the player on skates. He uses this long arm move, combined with his lower body drive, to bully the center back into the pocket.
He then grabs the cloth and starts to separate to the opposite side while subtly pulling the center’s jersey away from the separation, causing more separation. Lawrence then gets his big paw in the air and forces quarterback Brandon Allen (No. 8) to overthrow the football.
Bull-rushing should easily be a part of Lawrence’s game, but that’s not all he’s got in terms of rushing the passer.
Here’s another quick video of Dexter Lawrence using strength as the Seahawks pass him off on this stunt. He just runs through the face of former Giant Chad Wheeler (No. 75).
We can see how he torques his body, gets his hands inside, unlocks his strength, and Wheeler was also not ready for the transition. It was not a great look for the tackle, but Lawrence can do that to lesser tackles and good offensive linemen, for that matter.
He’s a bit more in a 1-shade here against the Ravens, and, again, he makes initial contact with that left arm on the center. Lawrence gets his hand inside quickly and with authority, putting the center into a precarious situation.
Then he uses that unique lateral agility to explode off his left foot and flip his hips to the other side of the center while pulling the player downward with that left arm. The center’s momentum goes forward, and Lawrence is able to disengage entirely from the block.
Lamar Jackson (No. 8) quickly sees and tries to vacate, but Lawrence gets him in his grasp. Jackson, somehow, still finds a receiver for a solid gain.
Here we see Lawrence in another third-down situation explode off the football and attack the half-man, the left shoulder, of the center. Initially, Lawrence uses strength to bull through the half-man relationship, but then he realizes he may not have the angle.
Look at Lawrence’s left arm--it’s first tucked into the chest of the center, but once Lawrence senses the lack of leverage, he gets his hand free and clubs the right side of the center’s momentum towards where he was heading to manipulate the balance of the player.
Once that center readjusts his arm to fit, Lawrence attacks with the club/arm over move and is able to defeat the block to pressure Russell Wilson (No. 3).
According to Pro Football Focus, Lawrence has seven career sacks and 59 total pressures on 760 pass-rushing attempts. Here is one of them against Baker Mayfield (No. 6).
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As the 3-technique, at the snap, Lawrence quickly traps the guard’s outside arm with his own outside arm. Lawrence reaches out with his outside arm, makes contact with the shoulder pad, traps the guard’s outer arm, and then rips through with his inside arm to create a dominating half-man relationship.
Lawrence then bends through the contact, runs around the guard to separate, runs through the helping center, tracks down Mayfield, and earns a sack.
MORE "GOOD, GREAT & UGLY" BREAKDOWNS
WR Kelvin Benjamin | RB Devontae Booker | RB Corey Clement | OLB Lorenzo Carter | CB Isaac Yiadom | TE Kaden Smith | WR Kenny Golladay | TE Levine Toilolo | Edge Ifeadi Odenigbo | DT Danny Shelton | OL Zach Fulton | CB Adoree' Jackson | TE Evan Engram | S Jabrill Peppers | S Xavier McKinney | ILB Reggie Ragland | WR John Ross | TE Kyle Rudolph | OLB Oshane Ximines | LB Carter Coughlin
The Great: Stack & Shed
He does such a good job sinking his center of gravity, using his 34¾” arm length (90the percentile), gaining access to the blocker’s chest, and then violently shedding or collapsing rushing lanes with his sheer dominance and authority.
The center has no access to Lawrence, who has a great angular low stance; he’s playing 2-gaps here in a defense that is not currently 2-gapping. He positions himself in the B-gap where the guard just vacated to pull, yet he collapses the A-gap with how he handles the block. Very impressive play from Lawrence.
This is a much different block to handle for Lawrence. Seattle is in the shotgun, and the line flows laterally for a stretch type of run; Lawrence has to handle the ACE block from the center and play-side guard as a 2i-technique. Lawrence engages the guard and flows with the play.
The center is going to have to climb to the second level to locate the linebacker, and Lawrence knows this, so he focuses more on the guard, who he has great position and leverage.
Once the center leaves, Lawrence explodes off his outside foot and uses the momentum of the guard against him to go back inside to close the A-gap. Another very good play against the Seattle Seahawks.
He shifts from 1-technique to 2-technique right before the snap against this outside type of run. Look how he pushes the guard well into the backfield and then sets up inside the rushing lane. His awareness, strength, positioning, and ability to shed in a timely manner are all very impressive.
Another part of Lawrence’s very underrated game is his ability to work laterally through blocks and trash. He’s deceptively good at knowing when to use offensive lineman’s momentum against them to shed and position himself right where the running back intends to be.
This is a nice quality to have against these outside zone-based teams like the 49ers and the Rams and so many other teams around the league. Here he flows with the DEUCE block and uses Austin Corbett (63) as a victim on this play.
Corbett is shocked by the initial punch of Lawrence as he is flowing laterally, but the defender waits for the tackle to climb and then uses his quick hands to assist Corbett away and to the deck. Lawrence then uses his impressive lower body explosiveness to dive and locate the running back.
Lawrence just controls blocks. Look at his eyes on this play against the 49ers as he flows laterally. He controls the center the entire time and waits for the running back to make his move. Once the running back goes inside, Lawrence discards the block and makes the tackle.
The Ugly: Taking on Double Teams
I feel like I am stretching here because there isn’t a lot wrong with Lawrence’s game relative to who he is as a football player. He isn’t going to be dropping into coverage much.
There were plays where he did a good job anchoring down and eating blocks, but I just don’t think it’s as efficient and effective as when he’s moving forward, or laterally, and penetrating.
For a player of his size, he only had 23 snaps as a true nose tackle--that spot was reserved for the much smaller Dalvin Tomlinson, who was better at taking on double team blocks.
Tomlinson’s ability to sink his hips, plant his feet, and anchor down was incredible with the Giants. I think Lawrence does a fine job when asked, but there are reps when he is turned out of his responsibility.
Lawrence is aligned in a 4i-technique, and he is double-teamed on this play. He engages the tackle and allows him to win positioning to the outside while the guard attacks the inside portion of Lawrence. By losing the outside position, Lawrence gets displaced and also gives the tackle a better angle at Blake Martinez (No. 54).
This puts Julian Love (No. 20) in the alley against Kenyan Drake (No. 41), and then Love misses the tackle, as Niko Lalos (No. 97) is double-teamed and James Bradberry (No. 24) fills outside.
Lawrence getting bullied out of the hole put a higher priority on Love to execute his assignment as an alley defender--he failed on this play, which led to a significant gain for the Arizona Cardinals.
I don’t believe this play reflects Lawrence’s overall ability to anchor down when stationary and handle double team blocks, but I also feel there is room for growth in this area for a player of his size. Lawrence is entering his third season, and I believe he is primed for a breakout along this defensive line.
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