In case you have forgotten, Carl Lawson is really flippin’ good.
If Lawson’s return to the Bengals lineup were to be described through a quote from the movie Billy Madison it would be less the sarcastic, “Carl... Good to see you,” and more the sincere, “Man, I’m glad I called that guy!”
Lawson is in his second week back from injury and played well. He took 37% of the team’s defensive snaps, notching two tackles and one sack. The Bengals made good use of him, working to his strengths and using him primarily in passing situations.
Let’s take a look at a few of Lawson’s plays from the Raiders game.
Lawson sack pic.twitter.com/xmd0a7QQMx— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) November 19, 2019
We’ll start with Lawson’s sack. It came on a third-and-two in the third quarter.
In the clip above he is the right defensive end (left from our perspective). The Raiders have a tight end and an H-back to that side, and Lawson aligns head up on the h-back, but titled to the inside.
Left tackle Kolton Miller pass sets and turns his hips to block Lawson, but Lawson chops the tackle’s left arm down and beats him with speed on the edge.
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr steps up in the pocket, but Lawson brings him down from behind.
Pass rush pic.twitter.com/lhLqhx1DoL— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) November 19, 2019
Miller had a rough day. In the clip above it is third-and-six and Lawson is matched up with Miller on the right.
Lawson comes off the ball with speed heading straight upfield. He strikes Miller with his left arm and extends. As he turns the corner it is obvious that he has Miller on the ropes. Lawson has him standing straight up and is pushing him into the pocket. Carr gets the ball off, with Lawson still closing in.
Carl Lawson pic.twitter.com/1IuzQARjUs— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) November 19, 2019
Another close call for Miller came on a second-and-14 in the second quarter.
This time, Lawson attacks Miller’s inside shoulder. He strikes and extends his left arm. In this manner he is able to get Miller’s hips turned and take away his strength. He literally has Miller hopping on one leg.
At this point, Lawson should come through with his right arm and have another sack, but he is not able to disengage.
He gets a hand on Carr, but the quarterback is able to get the ball off.
Atkins/Dunlap Sack pic.twitter.com/1CClm5mhzb— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) November 19, 2019
A number of times, the Bengals lined up with only three down linemen and had Lawson and a linebacker standing up in the B-gaps. That was the case in the clip above.
Lawson and Nick Vigil were showing blitz in the middle and although Vigil ended covering the running back, the appearance of a five-man pressure created one-on-one matchups in the pass protection.
Lawson was lined up between Miller and left guard Richie Incognito. After pressuring the B-gap, Lawson darted across Incognito’s face and into the A-gap.
Incognito responded and washed Lawson down the line of scrimmage, but this actually resulted in a sack. Lawson ended up taking out both center Rodney Hudson and right guard Gabe Jackson, and freeing up Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap to make the sack.
Loop pic.twitter.com/oAcuZrUspQ— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) November 19, 2019
The pass above happens a bit too quickly for the pass rush to get home, but it is another impressive deployment of Lawson.
Just like above, Lawson is walked into the B-Gap, but this time he loops around to the edge and Sam Hubbard stunts to the inside. Miller bends at his waste and tries to put his helmet on Lawson, but Lawson once again strikes him and extends his arms while rolling his hips through and standing the offensive tackle up. Lawson is a powerful player who gave Miller problems all day.
While injuries have hindered his production, Lawson has the skills to be an elite pass rusher in the NFL. The Bengals made great use of him against the Raiders, primarily in passing situations. Lawson can play both on and off the ball and should be moved around to maximize the problems he causes opposing offenses.