One of the most head-turning Cincinnati Bengals players during training camp has been fourth round rookie pass rusher Carl Lawson.
A defensive end in college, the Bengals are planning to play Lawson at outside linebacker, though, primarily he’s going to be doing what he does best: getting after quarterbacks.
In speaking with the media on Thursday, head coach Marvin Lewis allowed for some nice praise in regards to Lawson.
“He’s going to get unleashed. That’s what I told him again in the team meeting,” Lewis said.
Though, Lewis says Lawson is going “a million miles an hour” and “needs to understand how we have to continually practice here.”
“It’s a hard thing,” Lewis continued. “He’s trying to be impressive. Well, he’s impressed me enough. He’ll continue to grow. He’s making a bit of a transition to playing on his feet in the base defenses. Making that transition and understanding the passing game is the biggest growth of playing linebacker. He’s doing a great job.”
Before the Bengals selected Lawson, they drafted Jordan Willis in Round 3. He figures to also see the field frequently in his rookie year as the Bengals look to get more production from defensive ends not named Carlos Dunlap.
“It’s funny, (Lawson) and Jordan Willis are conscientious in the same way. They don’t ever want to be wrong,” Lewis said. “I keep telling them, ‘Give me a little of (Carlos) Dunlap. A little Carlos. Just a pinch, and you’ll be fine.’ Because you have to be reckless to play this game on defense effectively. You have to have a little bit of that, because on defense, if you think you’re going to coach this game based on numbers, you’re going to get your butt beat.”
The Bengals have tried unsuccessfully to utilize guys like Lawson as linebackers before... David Pollack, Dontay Moch and even James Harrison all failed in Cincinnati for one reason one another. Those players are part of the reason many Bengals fans have feared the team changing Lawson’s position at the NFL level. But before Lewis got to Cincinnati, one of his fortes was coaching up those types of players.
“We’ve had this ‘guy,’ and it never worked out totally,” Lewis said of what he hopes Lawson will develop into with the Bengals. “Now, I have another one. David Pollack got hurt in his second year. He didn’t get any training camp his first year, but he had a really good rookie year for what he got to do. Then he got hurt in the second game of his second year. But we’ve been searching for this kind of guy again, and we found another one. He’s smart, football-wise. And he wants to be good. All the arrows are pointing up.”
So while many Bengals fans are concerned about the team moving Lawson to linebacker, Lewis isn’t worried.
“I think it’s a very easy spot to develop, personally,” he said. “But that’s also my background... I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of guys do that. I’ve had Chad Brown (Steelers) who did that. I’ve had Jason Gildon (Steelers) who did that. Peter Boulware (Ravens) did that. Cornell Brown (Ravens) did that. And, Levon Kirkland (Steelers), who did that in another way. All these guys were ‘down’ guys (played defensive line) in college, and I coached them into linebackers.”
Hopefully, Lawson will finally become one of Lewis’ successes in this area with the Bengals. He suggested we stop writing about it as a way for it to take...
“Some people get afraid of making those kinds of transitions with people. I’m not. It’s common to me and my background,” he said. “Other people get afraid of that. You guys write about it all the time. If you were to write less about it, maybe there would be more of that.”