Earlier in the year, the New York Jets lost DE Carl Lawson, a recent free agency signing, to a season-ending ankle injury. General Manager Joe Douglas reacted quickly and made a deal with the Houston Texans to fill the hole. The Jets received DE Shaq Lawson, with the Texans receiving a 2022 sixth-round pick in return. Lawson will be on his fourth team in six years and has a lot to prove but brings a lot to the New York Jets as well. What Shaq Lawson means to the New York Jets is a chance at a serious pass-rushing corps.
How Shaq Lawson Improves the Defense of the New York Jets
Lawson Has a Lot to Prove
Shaq Lawson was a first-round pick for the Buffalo Bills back in 2019. Being the 19th overall pick came with heavy expectations for the young rookie. In his four years in Buffalo, Lawson played 50 games and recorded five forced fumbles, 16.5 sacks, 63 solo tackles, 45 assisted tackles, 25 tackles for a loss, and 38 quarterback hits. Lawson’s season numbers saw an increase in his final season as he had a career year. After his overall average performance, the Bills declined Lawson’s fifth-year option and let him go to free agency.
The Miami Dolphins signed Lawson to a three-year deal during 2020 free agency. In his first season in Miami, Shaq Lawson put up similar numbers to the previous year. In 14 games he recorded one forced fumble, one fumble recovery for a touchdown, four sacks, 17 solo tackles, 15 assisted tackles, four tackles for a loss, and 18 quarterback hits. Miami wound up trading Lawson to the Texans following the 2020 season. The Jets trade with the Texans came before Lawson even played a snap for the Texans.
Lawson’s numbers have not been those of a first-round pick. The game film shows a similar story. Once a promising prospect, Lawson’s career been tampered by average play going into his sixth season. The lights are not out on Lawson yet as he does show potential above what we’ve seen.
How Lawson Can Succeed On The Jets
The numbers do not paint a good picture of the former 2016 first-round pick, but the Jets will provide him a spot to shine. Lawson’s success will start at the top with new head coach Robert Saleh.
Saleh has proven his defensive mettle in his years with the Seahawks, Jaguars, and 49ers, especially in 2019, and will be a perfect fit to coach Lawson. Saleh’s 4-3 scheme will see Lawson line up alongside defensive powerhouses Quinnen Williams and Sheldon Rankins. Opposing offensive lines will be forced to shift protection to the interior, allowing Lawson to be in single-blocker matchups. This new scheme will provide Lawson with exotic blitzing help and a defensive backfield that will force quarterbacks to hold on to the ball for longer periods of time. This will allow Lawson more time to pressure them into sacks or errant throws.
As noted earlier, Lawson has seen an increase in the level of his play in the last couple of years. In 2019, Lawson had a career-high 6.5 sacks and followed that up in 2020 with his second-highest total of four. Lawson has also recorded at least one forced fumble in each of his six seasons and added a fumble recovery for a touchdown in 2020. While the numbers and film aren’t great, they do show the beginning of sustained improvement.
With the expectations of a high draft pick and Carl Lawson’s shoes to fill, Shaq Lawson will have his work cut out for himself in New York. Even with all this pressure, Lawson is set to have a career year. What Shaq Lawson means to the New York Jets is a chance to help transform the Gang Green defense and provide a formidable pass rush in 2021.
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