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Dexter Lawrence

New York Giants defensive end Dexter Lawrence was the 17th pick overall in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Dexter Lawrence wasn't allowed to play the last time his team traveled to AT&T Stadium, so Sunday isn't just his NFL debut. It's an opportunity for the Giants' first-round pick to rewrite his own history.

It's a chance to push past last season's two-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance, and to do it with a bang against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 1.

"I'm excited," Lawrence, the 6-4, 342-pound defensive lineman, told the Daily News on Friday. "I'm kind of over the situation that happened, but it's my first opportunity to play there. And I was upset I had to miss last year, so I guess there's a little bit more juice or anticipation just to be on the field and play."

Lawrence's Clemson Tigers blew out Notre Dame, 30-3, on this field without him in the college football semifinal on Dec. 29. Then they slaughtered Alabama without him, 44-16, for the national championship.

All the while he was sidelined for testing positive for ostarine, a performance-enhancing drug he denied taking, saying in March that he had "no reason" to use the PED.

That didn't keep Lawrence from the top of draft boards around the league, though, and the Giants drafted him 17th overall with the first-round pick they acquired from Cleveland in the Odell Beckham trade.

And though he initially projected as an interior lineman only, he's been rotating on both the inside and outside with Dalvin Tomlinson in coordinator James Bettcher's 3-4 scheme.

"That's why they drafted me. They told me they felt I could play the whole line, wherever they wanted me to play," Lawrence, 21, said. "Every guy on the defensive line can pretty much play every position. And throughout the preseason we've been rotating at all the positions getting comfortable just in case we have to play each position. It's about being ready, pretty much."

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It remains to be seen if Tomlinson (6-3, 319 pounds) will handle the interior well enough to allow Bettcher to use Lawrence in the pass rush on the outside at times, with B.J. Hill (6-3, 310) on the opposite side.

Lawrence might end up being the team's best run stopper, something they lacked the second half of last season after trading Damon Harrison to Detroit.

Bettcher said for now what the offense is doing might dictate where his D-linemen are positioned to best counter certain strengths of the opposition.

"I think all of those guys have things that they will create issues for from an offensive perspective, whether its length, power, or quickness," Bettcher said. "Having a chance to rush on different people, having a chance to play the run game on different people is something they also have to prepare for, as well."

Lawrence emphasized stopping the run first is essential to the Giants' plan not only to stop the Cowboys but to play winning defense this season.

"I feel like as a defensive line we can stop the run and rush the passer. That's what our focus has been," he said. "That's been our emphasis this whole offseason is getting better, first, at stopping the runs so we can make it to pass downs. So we've been trying to put extra emphasis on our pad level, our hands, our eyes, the little nuances and techniques we all need to work on."

One would think Lawrence would be nervous approaching his NFL debut, especially given where he is playing -- the site of a Clemson semifinal playoff victory he could only watch. He said that's not the case, though. It's excitement that builds until game day, when he finally lets loose.

"I never really ever got nervous," Lawrence said of his football career. "I'm not a nervous type of guy. I'm just anxious. And I get excited when it gets closer and closer. Like right now I say I'm not ready but I'll be ready kind of deal. So just keep the anticipation down, and then when it gets here, usually I just let it all unfold, and unload."

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