Wink Martindale gushes about Dexter Lawrence’s rare ability: ‘He’s a problem’

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It’s an unusual rule for a 342-pound defensive tackle to live by, but Dexter Lawrence never wants to lose a run to a quarterback.

Sure enough, there was the biggest man in the Giants defense last Sunday, chasing a clambering Baker Mayfield to the sidelines, beating him to the first-down marker and knocking the ball loose for a fumble to land fourth. at the end of the first quarter.

“One of my goals is to never outrun a quarterback,” Lawrence said. “That’s kind of a competitive thing that I have in my head all the time. I was just trying to get him. I don’t think it’s crazy. It was a great third-down play, so I’ll keep doing that sort of thing.”

The game left defensive coordinator Wink Martindale — who served on the Ravens defensive staff at the end of potential Hall of Famer Haloti Ngata’s career and called the plays during Brandon Williams’ Pro Bowl season — in awe. He emphasized it during Monday’s defensive meeting.

“He’s a problem,” Martindale said. “The play where he chased Baker Mayfield, I don’t know if in my career I’ve ever seen a great man like him play such a play. That’s the kind of effort and leadership he brings to defense.”

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Dexter Lawrence has a rare speed for a defensive lineman.
Noah K. Murray-NY Post

Lawrence’s role will be more important than ever on Monday when the Giants play the Cowboys, and Leonard Williams – his defense partner for the past three seasons – is expected to miss a game for the first time in his career. But it won’t rattle a former first-round pick who Martindale described as “one of my most favorite players I’ve ever been in my life” after just six months together.

“It just shows the confidence I’ve gotten from him,” Lawrence said. “I just want to do my job every game, and he knows I can do a little bit more – get other guys on board and play hard. He’s helped me with low self-confidence or by letting me be a free agent.”

Justin Ellis played under Martindale and with some of the NFL’s most talented defensive linemen in Baltimore. Was he equally impressed with Lawrence’s athletic ability to keep up with Mayfield?

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“That was great to see — even I told him that,” said the 334-pound Ellis. “It takes a lot of willpower to put your body into overdrive and go for it. He didn’t have the speed of a linebacker, but he moved well for a big boy, with a lot of effort.”

Lawrence, who will not be a free agent until after the 2023 season as the Giants have exercised his fifth-year option, is also showing signs that he could become more of a pass-rusher in Martindale’s defense. He has pressured six times, including three quarterback hits, in two games, and the season opener was the third-highest-rated pass-rushing game of Lawrence’s four-year career, according to Pro Football Focus.

“Hitting balls, getting him off his spot, double clutching him, putting guys at his feet, those kinds of little things affect the quarterback,” Lawrence said. “It’s hard to get fired, and that’s what you’re all going for. Everything has to go well, but if there’s one way to make a quarterback flinch, it’s a win.”

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Williams’ anticipated absence won’t change where Lawrence stands in line or his responsibilities. The Giants can close the gap with Ellis as Jihad Ward moves in after playing the last two games on the rim or with a front with one tackle as Martindale dives into his imagination to create a “positionless defense”.

“I’m just focused on getting into my rhythm and bringing my best game,” Ellis said. “Leonard is a special player, so it’s hard to fill those shoes.”

Wink Martindale
Wink Martindale has rarely seen what Dexter Lawrence did against the Panthers.
Noah K. Murray-NY Post
Dexter Lawrence (97) chases Baker Mayfield in Giants' Week 2 win over the Panthers.
Dexter Lawrence (97) chases Baker Mayfield in Giants’ Week 2 win over the Panthers.
USA TODAY Sports

Lawrence’s shoes just need to keep up with quarterback Cooper Rush on Sunday. Later in the season, however, he will test his closing speed – he ran a 5.05-second 40-yard dash out of Clemson in 2019 – against Lamar Jackson and Jalen Hurts.

“I could have chased Kyler” [Murray] once,” Lawrence said. “I don’t think it really matters which quarterback it is. If I get a good angle, maybe I can get him or slow him down.”

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