The Buffalo Bills’ defense has been inconsistent throughout the 2015 season as they’ve transitioned to Rex Ryan’s hybrid 3-4 defensive scheme. Some players throughout the fron seven that were productive in Mike Pettine and Jim Schwartz’ defensive schemes that were based on 4-3 concepts haven’t been able to replicate that success in their new roles. So, going into the offseason and most notably the 2016 NFL Draft, it’s likely that the team will look to acquire defenders that fit the archetypes for the positions needed for Ryan’s system to thrive. Today, we’ll take a look at Clemson Defensive End Shaq Lawson.
Lawson stands 6’3 and weighs around 270 pounds. While he may be limited in the title game due to a knee injury suffered in the semi-final of the 2015-2016 playoff, when you look at games during the season he is a strong, explosive athlete. Lawson ended the regular season with 10.5 sacks, 1 fumble forced and 55 tackles. While his ascent to full-time starter did not occur until his junior year, his effort has been a hallmark of his play.
Take a look at these two plays back to back vs Miami. In the first part of the clip, Lawson is playing a stand-up end role keeping the edge set on the back end of the run in case of cutback. After that play, he’s mixing up speed and a little trickery to jump from an outside rush vs the left tackle to an inside move – then power to get through the guard en route to a QB sack. As you watch Clemson games, you see that this sequence isn’t a rarity with Lawson – it’s quite commonplace.
Lawson’s athleticism is also shown in this double clip – in which he drops in coverage to the flats vs trips first, then follows that up with a great pass rush on the next down. For a Ryan defense, these sorts of traits/plays on film will be great to project him in the defense.
Lawson does a great job as you’ll see below in stacking and shedding the tackle when he is playing the run. Playing a 5 technique or standing as a 7 has not been an issue during games as well, which should be attractive to Bills coaches.
Lawson’s hands are heavy and he can walk a tackle back if they are too worried about his speed – and if his hands are good but can always be coached up.
Pass Rushing Ability
When Lawson has a QB in his sights, he follows the KISS mantra and gets the guy down. There’s no stutter stepping or breaking down – he just takes the guy down. This clip is another vs Miami and note that the guard didn’t exactly set the world on fire with his pull – and Lawson makes him pay for it. While this was as I mentioned before his first season being a true starter, Lawson was savvy with his transition of speed to power and can only get better with NFL coaching.
Potential Fit with Buffalo Bills
For the Bills, I can see Lawson playing a lot of 5 technique with the odd blitz/rush where he can stand up and twist into or out of the interior of the line. With his motor and ability to drop effectively to the flats, Lawson would allow for a good rotation at defensive line, much to the linebackers’ relief. However, the power of NFL tackles will be an issue with any player, let alone one that’s going into the NFL Combine/Draft process on a bad knee. As Rex Ryan mentioned towards the end of the season, he needs players to do their jobs and at times take a risk, make a play and “do a little more”. Shaq Lawson can be one of those players if drafted, provided his checks medically are okay.