EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Dexter Lawrence is listed as a 6-4, 342-pounder on the Giants' roster, so it's no surprise he's usually not impressed by a teammate's size. But Danny Shelton, who checks in at 6-2 and 345 pounds, is the rare person who can make Lawrence feel small.
"A little bit," Lawrence admitted after a training camp practice today. "He's a massive dude, but good personality. He fits right in. I'm excited to be able to work with him."
Entering his third year, Lawrence trained this offseason with neither losing nor gaining weight as a goal.
"I was just trying to maintain and shape my body," he said. "It's kind of like, I'm to the point that I'm going to be big all my life. Just make it look good … and keep my sexy on."
The defensive line has a different vibe in this camp. Gone is Dalvin Tomlinson, who started every game the last four years and in 2020 was a captain and the Giants' Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee. He was enormously popular within the organization. But the Giants could not fit him under the salary cap and still address other needs, so Tomlinson signed with the Minnesota Vikings.
They compensated for the loss by adding Shelton, one of the NFL's most consistent run-stopping linemen. With him in the middle of the front, the Giants could improve their run defense, which ranked 10th in the NFL last season, allowing 111.4 yards a game.
"Honestly, the group in whole, we all just bond and click," Lawrence said. "We can coach each other. We can pick on each other. There's no hard feelings with anything because everybody is genuine. Like I said, he fits right in. He came in and fit right in. He even brought some character to the room, so it's not a lot of – it's not like an intruder came. It's kind of like, it just fit like a puzzle was put in."
In addition to its abundance of size, the defensive front has plenty of talent. Lawrence, Shelton and Leonard Williams were all first-round draft choices, selected 12th, 17th and sixth in their respective drafts. Williams had a career-high 11.5 sacks and was twice named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week last season. Shelton has 247 career tackles and earned a Super Bowl ring with the 2018 New England Patriots.
Lawrence, who played in all 32 games with 31 starts in his first two Giants seasons, last year tied linebacker Kyler Fackrell for second on the team with 4.0 sacks. He also tallied 53 tackles (30 solo), including six for loss, 10 quarterback hits and two passes defensed.
"I expect more from myself," Lawrence said. "My main focus is helping the team win games. Whatever I can do to help the team win games is what I will do. I push everybody in practice, the whole D-line, we root for each other. We want to see each other be great, so that's the whole goal in the room is to help everybody be great.
"My focus this offseason was learning the position more. I know there was a lot that I watched myself on tape that I didn't exactly know what to do. This whole offseason I worked on myself, I worked on learning my position."
That should pay dividends for both the Giants and him this season.
"I'm improving every year," Lawrence said. "The goal as a D-lineman is to be a complete player, to do all you can. You want to play every down. So that's your goal is to be that complete player and that's what you work at, taking it stage by stage."
View must-see photos of the Giants on the practice field from Day 2 of training camp on Thursday.
*First-round draft choice Kadarius Toney continues to progress since being activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday.
"He had a good day yesterday with the trainers," coach Joe Judge said. "We're going to keep on ramping him up over there. I can't speak directly for Kadarius and where he's at. I'm going off of what I've talked about with the trainers. Obviously, we're going to take him day by day."
Judge said prior to practice that he expected Toney to spend most of his time on the field with the athletic trainers.
"We've got a number of guys doing that, guys that are coming off that COVID list," Judge said. "We just keep going back to last year and what we learned, and every player was truly different. We had guys come back last year where they were a little bit winded early in the phase, but they responded quicker. A lot of times based on what the symptoms had been or how hard they had gotten hit by the virus, that can reflect on when they come on back.
"In terms of Kadarius, we're going to do everything we can do with him. It'll be more of a short stay on the field for him, he'll be out there doing a little bit of stuff in a controlled situation, more special teams and fundamentals related. The rest of the time he's going to be with the trainers getting ready, and when he's not with them he's going to be back with the team so he can listen and get mental reps."
*Judge avoided specifics when asked why veteran tight end Kelvin Benjamin was released yesterday.
"There's 32 teams that make roster moves every day, this was really no different," Judge said. "We decided to make a move we thought was best for the team and that's going to be the category that falls into any move we make. We're always going to make a selection that's best for the team. I wish him well. I wish him the best of luck going forward. No ill will, and I hope he has success."
*Left guard Shane Lemieux was carted off the practice field with a knee issue.
*Running back Taquan Mizzell was waived with an injury settlement. Mizell, who signed with the Giants on Jan. 4, was placed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury last week. In 2020, he played in nine games for the Chicago Bears and rushed for 16 yards on nine carries and caught eight passes for 78 yards and one touchdown.