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Film Room: Carl Lawson steps up in rare starting role

In his second start of his third season and his third start of his career, Carl Lawson had one of his better games in Cleveland.

Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

While Sam Hubbard was sidelined with a knee injury this week, we received what we have all been waiting for: more Carl Lawson.

Lawson did not disappoint in an expanded role. In his 51 total snaps (91% of the Bengals’ defensive snaps) Lawson had four tackles, including one tackle for a loss and a sack.

We all know that Lawson can get after the quarterback, but what impressed me the most this weekend was his ability to defend the run.

In the clip above, the Browns tried to run an off-tackle play to Lawson’s side. The tight end and the h-back are responsible for Lawson and linebacker Germaine Pratt.

Lawson strikes the tight end at the snap, throwing him off balance. The H-back looks to pick up Pratt as he scrapes and Lawson is able to get into the backfield and tackle running back Kareem Hunt for a four-yard loss.

This was a huge play to force third-and-long with the Bengals trailing and trying to get the ball back late in the fourth quarter.

On the counter play in the clip above, Lawson is once again blocked by a tight end. He engages with the blocker and gets extension.

When running back Nick Chubb tries to cut inside, Lawson is able to disengage from the block and get involved in the tackle.

This is an excellent display of play recognition and block destruction.

One of the most important things that Hubbard does in this defense is holding the edge against the running game. In this clip, Lawson shows that he can do the same.

The Browns run a toss play towards Lawson’s side. He quickly diagnoses the play and looks to gain width. Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry is attempting a down block, but Lawson drives through him to the edge, eventually knocking Landry to the ground.

Lawson does not make the stop, but forces the Chubb to cut back. This is an impressive play by Carlos Dunlap who runs the ball-carrier down from the other side of the formation for a three-yard gain,

The tight end attempts to block down on Lawson in the clip above. Once again, Lawson fights through the block and gets to the outside.

When Hunt cuts back to the inside, Lawson is able to get back inside of the tight end and get involved in the tackle.

Lawson shows excellent strength and flexibility to get inside once the ball has declared. He is a special athlete and this helps him perform against the run and the pass.

With the season lost, many people have talked about “seeing what we have” in young players. The Bengals have been playing a lot of different people and due to Hubbard’s injury Lawson got the opportunity to take on a much heavier workload.

In Hubbard’s role, Lawson had to step up against the run game and even drop into pass coverage on a few occasions. We already knew that Lawson was an elite pass rusher, but in this game he proved that he is capable of being an every down player.

Having a pair of versatile defenders like Hubbard and Lawson could bode well for the Bengals if they decided to transition to a 3-4 defense. Both project well as a outside linebackers in that scheme and their respective careers could be enhanced playing that position.