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The NFL’s next prolific pass-rusher may very well be Carl Lawson

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Lawson’s strength and power makes him a threat every time he rushes the passer. Is this the year he puts it all together?

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Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Carl Lawson is an extraordinary pass-rusher and the Bengals defensive scheme and personnel provide him with an extraordinary opportunity to succeed.

With increased opportunities in 2020, he could establish himself as one of the league’s top defenders.

Carl Lawson

Height: 6-2

Weight: 265

Age: 25

College: Auburn

Hometown: Alpharetta, GA

Experience: four years

Cap Status

Lawson is entering the final season of his rookie contract and counts just under $2.3 million against the cap in 2020.

Background

The Bengals selected Lawson in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Lawson was among the best pass-rushers in the draft that year.

He had 9.5 sacks in 2016, his final season at Auburn, but after missing all of 2014 with an ACL tear and much of 2015 with a hip injury, medical concerns pushed him down draft boards.

Lawson stayed healthy throughout his rookie season and managed 8.5 sacks in a mostly reserve role. That year he proved that he can hold his own against top NFL tackles like Joe Thomas, Ronnie Stanley, and Alejandro Villanueva.

After this promising start to his career, expectations were sky-high in 2018, but unfortunately his season was cut short by when he tore his other ACL. He was not putting up big sack numbers prior to his injury, but this is deceiving. He was regularly pressuring the quarterback.

Lawson dealt with a hamstring issue during the 2019 season and played in 12 games, notching 5 sacks. Like the rest of the defense, he showed improvement as the season went on, and seemed to be fitting well into his role.

Outlook for 2020

Lawson is an incredibly talented pass-rusher who possesses ample amounts of craftiness in his game. Pass-rush enthusiasts know him well for his hump move despite limited playing time in his three years in the league.

This move involves selling the outside rush, which puts pressure on the offensive tackle to set deep and open his hips to the outside. Then Lawson uses his inside arm to strike the offensive tackle’s outside shoulder. This throws the tackle off balance and opens his hips, allowing Lawson to come inside and attack the quarterback. This move perfectly demonstrates Lawson’s strength, quickness, and flexibility.

The Bengals’ “base” 3-4 defense is an excellent fit for Lawson. Although it requires him, at times, to drop into coverage rather than rushing the quarterback, it creates one-on-one matchups when he is pass rushing. It also puts him in an advantageous position for holding the edge against the run.

Of course, the Bengals spend the majority of their time in substitution packages, specifically nickel, with a four-man front. Because the Bengals will be in this type of defensive front in most obvious passing situations, this is where Lawson will make the greatest impact.

The Bengals have two other defensive ends who will play a large role in the 2020 season. Carlos Dunlap is the team’s all-time leader in sacks and Sam Hubbard is coming off of an impressive 8.5 sack season. The trio gives the Bengals an excellent rotation, plus Hubbard’s versatility allows him to rush from the inside, thus putting all three on the field together.

Lawson is heading into a contract year, and with his highly valued skillset, he could make himself a lot of money this season. In order to do so he must stay healthy and increase his sack production to what it was in his rookie season.

Roster Odds

Lawson’s talent has never been the question. He will absolutely make the final roster in 2020 and as long as he can stay healthy he will play a major role on defense.

Roster Odds: 100%