Dexter Lawrence: The Good, the Great, and The Ugly
When the Giants selected Dexter Lawrence with the 17th pick in the 2019 NFL draft, they knew they were grabbing a prospect that was sure not to bust.
The question though, was how good he could be? After his first season, we can see that the ceiling is very high for the 22-year-old Clemson alum.
There are so many things to love about Lawrence's game, his explosiveness, power, and versatility along the interior make him a valuable asset.
However, he is not a finished product, and like so many young players, he has his warts. Let's take a look at the good, the great, and the ugly of Lawrence's game.
The Good: Lawrence can not be moved off the line!
Lawrence is one of the toughest defensive linemen to move off the line of scrimmage. Offensive linemen try to reach Lawrence, blow him off the line, or wall him off, but it is almost impossible for people to get him off his track.
Because of his ability to anchor to the line of scrimmage, any run play designed to hit near his gap is disrupted.
In this first clip, Lawrence is in a shade 1-technique against the Lions, who are running a zone play. The center and right guard are trying to double-team Lawrence. The goal is for the guard to take over Lawrence and the center to climb to the second level to find another block.
Lawrence latches onto the center, drives him down the line, disengages, and tackles the running back for a minimal gain.
In this next clip, Lawrence is once again in a shade on the center. The Vikings are running a toss play to the defensive right. The center is pulling, and the right guard is supposed to reach Lawrence to keep him from getting to the ball carrier.
Lawrence is able to fight down the line and hold the guard from reaching him. He ultimately disrupts the play because he doesn't allow the running back to find a lane to run through.
He ends the play by swallowing up the back and trying to strip the ball away for a short gain.
This third clip is a trap play that the Vikings execute flawlessly. The problem is Lawrence is sitting on the center again.
On the snap of the ball, Lawrence presses the center back and disrupts the path of the pulling guard. He also makes the running back adjust his path wider and runs into the defensive end.
He is then able to shed off the center's block and gets in on the tackle. His ability to anchor but re-establish the line of scrimmage proves to be once again detrimental to the defense's success.
The Great: Lawrence has a lethal bullrush
Lawrence may not have elite pass-rushing numbers or moves, but he has an elite level move: the bullrush! His ability to drive his feet, extend his arms, and explode into the offense's backfield is second to none.
In this first clip, Lawrence is lined up in a 3-technique over the Bucs right guard. At the snap, Lawrence uses his right arm to stab at the right shoulder of the guard.
He executes a push-pull a move where you use the bullrush to get an offensive lineman back on their heels. When they shift their weight forward to keep from getting pushed back, he pulls the linemen forward, which gets them off balance.
He forces the guard to open his hips, allowing Lawrence to make a straight line for the quarterback. The quarterback tries to get rid of the pass cleanly, but Lawrence ultimately gets a hand on the quarterback's throwing arm and forces an incomplete pass.
In the second clip, Lawrence is over the Bucs' best offensive lineman, left guard Ali Marpet. Lawrence tries to shoot the A-gap but is initially covered by Marpet.
What would typically be the end of a pass rush for most interior linemen turns into a showcase of Lawrence's power. He digs his right shoulder into the chest of Marpet and drives him back into the quarterback.
He sheds Marpet to his left and jumps to block a pass attempt forcing the quarterback to try to scramble. Once the quarterback attempts to escape, Lawrence is able to redirect and make the sack.
This final clip illustrates the violence in Lawrence's hands and the drive in his legs that makes his bullrush so lethal.
He is lined up in a 3-technique over the Vikings' right guard. The first key to Lawrence winning the exchange is that he's able to get his hands inside and punches the guard in the chest. He then uses his explosiveness and drive to push the guard back into the lap of the quarterback.
The guard never has a chance to anchor down and keep Lawrence from advancing because he's constantly under pressure. Lawrence finishes the beautiful work by almost stripping the ball out of the quarterback's hands.
The Ugly: Lawrence needs to know when to detach from blocks.
Lawrence is a run stopper, but there is one thing that keeps him from being an elite run stopper, and that's understanding when to shed blocks.
Sometimes Lawrence is so engaged in his battle with his opponent that he forgets to look for the ball. This allows ball carriers to run by him when he should be able to make the tackle for a minimal gain.
In this first clip, Lawrence is lined up in a 3-technique over the right guard. Lawrence's superior athleticism and power should dominate a guard, especially a less than mediocre one. Still, he stalemates the guard leaning on him and subsequently starts his engagement for far too long while the running back is able to find a crease up the middle for a healthy gain.
If Lawrence had driven his man into the backfield and re-establishes the line of scrimmage, the back would have been forced to make a move in the backfield, which would have allowed the rest of the defense time to converge on the ball.
Lawrence tends to turn himself into velcro at times because he engages with the blocker but doesn't always run his feet. He will instead anchor down so that he's not moved off the line.
In this clip, he's aligned in a shade over the center whose base blocks him. Lawrence does a great job of extending his arms to create separation to work off the block, but his feet are not active.
As a result, he's incapable of collapsing the A-gap, and he can't shed the center to make a tackle. This allows the running back to accelerate through the A gap off the block of the center for a nice gain.
This final clip paints a clear picture of what happens when Lawrence isn't active with his feet and stays attached too long. In this play versus the Eagles, he and teammate Leonard Williams are lined up in 3-techniques outside eye of the guards.
On the snap of the ball, both men are double-teamed. Williams is doubled by the guard and center, while Lawrence is doubled by the guard and tackle who is attempting to scoop block Lawrence so the guard can climb to the second level.
Lawrence is able to get extended on the tackle, but once again, because his feet are not active, he's unable to shed the blocker and tackle the back.
Meanwhile, on the other side, Williams keeps his feet moving, defeats the double team, and is able to lunge to make a tackle before the decent gain turns into an explosive play for the Eagles.
The future is bright for Lawrence. He should become the anchor of a quality defensive line. There's also an opportunity for his pass-rushing skills to improve as he develops more moves off of his devastating bullrush.
Consistency is key to his development and the improvement of the overall defense.