Carl Lawson was one of the brightest stars of a Bengals team that struggled mightily, again, in 2017.
The 23-year old pass rusher was one sack away from tying the rookie franchise record with 8.5, and was also named to to the 2018 Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie Team.
The Stone Mountain, Georgia native was able to shine, despite playing a little over 40% of the snaps, mostly being used as the Bengals’ designated pass rusher. Lawson himself said that coaches talked about getting him more on the field next season, and that can only be good for a defense that is looking to become more aggressive in 2018 with new boss Teryl Austin coming over from Detroit.
Other than William Jackson III, no other player was as exciting for Bengals fans as Lawson, who was the rare rookie Marvin Lewis and company trusted to have an impact from Day 1.
We’ve selected the three best plays of his maiden season, but if you think we missed one, let us know in the comments section.
First career sack versus Green Bay in Week 3
The Bengals were struggling after not scoring a single touchdown in the first two games of the season, and they had already replaced offensive coordinator Ken Zampese with quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor.
Cincinnati needed a spark, something that could save a season that was already in peril after just 120 minutes of football. It wouldn’t be easy against the mighty Aaron Rodgers on the road.
While the offense eventually collapsed in the second half, Lawson and the defense held the Packers offense at bay for the most part of the game, and the rookie left his mark with a monster performance that included 2.5 sacks.
The first one of his young career was the most impressive, showcasing the speed, quick burst and sharp hands that made him a highly-regarded prospect despite his injury history.
Redemption sack against Buffalo in Week 5
After finally clinching their first win of the season, the Bengals were trying to keep their hopes alive by beating the visiting Bills. Lawson was again key, though he was called for an unnecessary roughness penalty that negated a third-down sack by Vontaze Burfict and allowed Buffalo’s offense to stay on the field early in the fourth quarter and down by only four points.
With Andy Dalton and company struggling to put points on the scoreboard, the Bengals’ defense needed to make plays, and that penalty by Lawson seemed like it would hurt a lot.
But the former Auburn star had other plans.
Lawson took his revenge a couple of plays later on the next third down situation and sacked Tyrod Taylor to force the Bills to punt and give his offense yet another chance to put the game away for good.
If he proved against Green Bay his speed and acceleration are formidable weapons, on his sack in Week 5, Lawson showed how good his hands are.
Game-winning sack against Indianapolis in Week 8
The Bengals needed everything they could get from their defense on a game they should’ve probably lost. A Carlos Dunlap pick-six gave them a late lead they never looked close to take on otherwise, but the Colts still had a chance to clinch the win in the fourth quarter with two minutes yet to play, down by only one point and the ball in midfield.
Enter Lawson and his power moves. If his speed gave him the first few sacks of his career, the Bengals’ right end proved he’s the complete package on this 2nd-and-6 situation at the 50-yard line.
Lawson has the potential to be a great pass rusher in this league, and alongside Dunlap, Geno Atkins and hopefully Jordan Willis and Andrew Billings, be a key member of one of the most exciting defensive fronts in the NFL.