EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Dexter Lawrence and Jordon Riley are both skilled defensive linemen standing more than six feet tall and weighing in excess of 300 pounds. They were drafted by the Giants from successful major college programs, Lawrence from Clemson and Riley from Oregon. And though Lawrence had a four-year head start in the NFL, each is 25 years old.
So, is Riley, who is nearing the end of his first NFL training camp, like Lawrence was when he worked his way through this stage in 2019?
"No," Lawrence said this week. "I was cuter."
Well, we won't argue that point. But one significant difference does exist between the young linemen. Lawrence was a first-round draft choice in 2019, the 17th overall selection. Riley was selected in the seventh round, 243rd overall.
Coaches like to say once a player is on the team, how he arrived is irrelevant. Riley personifies that sentiment. He has been impressive since first practicing with the team in the spring, has had a strong camp and maintained his performance with four tackles, including one for loss, in the first two preseason games. Riley will have another chance to sway the coaches in the preseason finale Saturday night against the Jets.
Seventh-round draft choices don't play this well this early every year. So naturally, when defensive coordinator Wink Martindale was asked about Riley on Wednesday, the question was "how much of a surprise has he been to you?"
"I don't think it's a surprise at all," Martindale said. "I think that when you draft a guy you expect him to play the way that you saw on tape and then you see in the future of what you can do to help develop him that can make him even better. And I think that's what you are seeing right now. But he still needs a lot of snaps and still needs to grow. I think he's in the perfect spot for it right now with where he is at with the veterans he has in that room and with Dre (defensive line coach Andre Patterson) and B-Cox (assistant defensive line coach Bryan Cox)."
View the best photos of all the action at the Giants' 2023 training camp.