Is New York Giants Pro Bowl defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence ready to fill the void left behind by the retirement of future Hall of Famer Aaron Donald?

The sixth-year pro out of Clemson believes he could become the league standard at interior defensive line now that Donald has left the field.

“Yeah, it could be (me),” Lawrence told reporters on Thursday when asked. “I’ve just got to keep working, working on my weaknesses and getting better with my strengths. It took me by surprise honestly. Look, 10 years is a long time, but you know you expect more things like that, but he left the game on top. A lot of respect to him for what he brought. There probably won’t be another one of him. A lot of respect.”

But first, Lawrence has to acclimate himself to a new defensive scheme, a new coordinator (Shane Bowen), and some fresh faces on defense — most notably linebacker Brian Burns, who said he and Lawrence were working well together and people should prepare for something special.

“I think it’s natural,” Lawrence said. “Right now, we’re not running games or doing any of that and still rushing well. I think it’s just natural — just understanding the game. We are two smart players playing beside each other. We work along well with each other over there. I like him a lot. He brings a different dynamic to the line.”

Incidentally, Burns called Lawrence ‘clever’ in his approach to the game recently.

“What does that mean, smart?” Lawrence said with a sarcastic laugh. “Yeah, like I said, the knowledge of the game clashes well together. So, I think that’s where that starts.”

Lawrence said the defensive units are working more in concert with one another, especially when it comes to the pass rush.

“It’s just knowledge bouncing off each other everywhere. It’s obviously a lot of talking. It’s loud in there. But it’s a lot of good work. That’s the best part about it,” he said.

Lawrence is clearly the team leader on defense but still strives to improve. That realization has not prevented him from taking to the tutelage of his unit coach, Andre Patterson.

“Coach Dre kind of shifted my mindset a little bit to work on things that I wasn’t good at,” Lawrence said. “That’s the next step into being better. Kudos to him obviously, for helping me think about things that I wasn’t necessarily – you know, you go to your natural habits to do what you can do to improve in the game. More tools is what I’m doing.”


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