Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence make list of top IDL
The Giants have a lot of young talent across the roster, but no position may be as deep as the interior defensive line.
Leonard Williams was acquired in a trade from the Jets in the middle of the 2019 season, helping boost a strong interior defensive line group.
Williams put up solid numbers in his half season with the Giants. The former Pro Bowl lineman registered 26 tackles (13 solo), two tackles for loss, 11 quarterback hits, 0.5 sacks, two passes defended and one forced fumble in eight games (five starts) with Big Blue.
The Giants placed the franchise tag on Williams at the beginning of the offseason, ensuring the former first round pick's spot on the team this season. After joining the Giants in Week 9, Williams went on to rank 8th in total pressures among interior defensive linemen for the remainder of the season.
Dexter Lawrence's promising rookie campaign earned him the No. 9 slot in Pro Football Focus' Top 50 NFL rookie rankings following the conclusion of the 2019 season. The 22-year-old earned a 76.1 overall grade from PFF, but Lawrence really left his mark in the run game. The No. 17 overall pick in last year's draft earned a 76.3 run defense grade, which ranked 21st among the 117 qualifying interior defenders. Among the six interior defensive linemen selected in the first round of the 2019 draft, Lawrence was the only one to play 500 or more snaps and earn an overall grade above 70.0.
Lawrence was also named to PFF’s 2019 NFL All-Rookie Team. He racked up 38 tackles (24 solo), 2.5 sacks, three tackles for loss, and nine quarterback hits. He also recorded one forced fumble and one pass defended while playing in all 16 games.
Williams and Lawrence were recently recognized for their strong play, making PFF's list of top 25 interior defensive linemen heading into the 2020 season. Williams came in at No 17 while Lawrence was ranked at No. 21.
"He graded at least better than average in every facet of the game that PFF measures, and while pass rushing was his weakest area, he still registered 30 total pressures and showed he could become something legitimate in that area," writes PFF's Sam Monson.
Joining Williams and Lawrence in the D-line room is Dalvin Tomlinson, who has been one of the most consistent players for the Giants over the last three seasons.
Since being selected as a second-round pick in the 2017 draft, Tomlinson has started all 16 games every year. He was named to the Pro Football Writers Association's All-Rookie team in 2017 before recording a career-high 59 tackles the following season. The defensive tackle registered several new career highs in 2019 after finishing with 3.5 sacks, seven tackles for loss, nine quarterback hits and one forced fumble to go with his 49 tackles (23 solo).
View photos of the Giants' active roster as it currently stands.
Leaner Dexter Lawrence wants to finish stronger
Dexter Lawrence has long enjoyed success on a football field.
In the five years before he joined the Giants as a first-round draft choice in 2019 – two seasons at Wake Forest (N.C.) High School and three at Clemson University – Lawrence's teams were a combined 68-5. The Tigers won two national championships and won all 15 of their games in 2018, his final season (Lawrence did not play in the final two games).
His rookie season as a Giants defensive tackle offered a far different football experience. The team endured a nine-game losing streak and finished 4-12. But Lawrence's long-term success helped him emerge with the right attitude to help make that season an aberration.
"I wouldn't say we lost last year, we kind of learned lessons and that's how I take everything pretty much," Lawrence said today on a Zoom call. "You have to find the positive in all things and find the light in all things. Clearly, no one likes that, but you have to find a way to be better and that's the focus this year."
For Lawrence, the improvement must begin with the man he sees in the mirror. He spent the offseason reforming his body so a leaner Lawrence can be more productive as an NFL sophomore.
"This offseason I definitely focused on (that)," Lawrence said. "I got a personal trainer, we focused on eating, portion control, I got a chef. I didn't really like my build last year (when his listed weight was 342 pounds). This year I tried to focus on losing a little bit of weight just so I can be better on the field. I'm out there running a lot better than I did last year. That's just the goal for me each year. Feel better and be better."
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