Carl Lawson aims to revive the Jets’ pass rush
Even Pro Football Reference’s adjusted sack totals couldn’t account for the high marks Carl Lawson expects for himself in 2021.
Lawson, a newly minted New York Jets pass rusher, has arrived in Florham Park for his first training camp on One Jets Drive. The former Cincinnati Bengal has been the talk of the Jets’ free agency haul. At $45 million over three seasons, he’s is the most expensive newcomer to the Jets’ fold.
Lawson walks down the halls of Atlantic Health Jets Training Center that are adorned with wall decorations depicting the likenesses of New York backfield invaders of days gone by. Alas, if those walls could talk, Gastineau, Klecko, Ellis, and Abraham would likely beg for company.
The Jets thus bestowed big bucks to the Bengal after four years in The Queen City. Lawson is pleased that the New York revolution, one that seeks to end a decade-long playoff drought, could begin in the trenches.
“I embrace it. I’m happy about it. I love D-line culture,” the defensive end said in his first public statements of training camp on Tuesday. “It’s not the sexy position that people talk about, but it starts in the trenches, on O-line, D-line. That’s how games are won or lost in this league. I take pride in being a part of the trenches.”
With matchups against elite passing talents like Matt Ryan, Deshaun Watson, and Tom Brady on the horizon – not to mention a yearly pair against Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills for the foreseeable future – Lawson couldn’t have arrived at a better time. Jets fans and management alike have yearned for a stronger pass rush. New York hasn’t seen a double-figure sack season since 2015, when Muhammad Wilkerson earned a dozen.
Lawson discusses his sack totals
By this point, the sack debate around Lawson’s evaluation has been well-documented. After posting 8.5 in his rookie campaign out of Auburn, Lawson earned only 11.5 over the last three seasons.
Asked how many quarterback takedowns Lawson “left” on the field last season, he estimated a lofty number that would more than double Michael Strahan and Al Baker’s respective official and unofficial all-time records combined.
“Maybe 100, because every rush is supposed to be a sack to me…I’m supposed to win, I’m supposed to get there and get the sack. It’s impossible, but that’s how I kind of treat it.”
Advanced stats have vindicated the Jets’ faith in him, but Lawson reiterated his dedication to boosting his sack totals nonetheless. While hitting the century mark may be too much to ask for – even with an extra game on the schedule – he believes the Jets provide a strong gameplan and group of co-workers that will help him succeed.
Lawson had special praise for head coach Robert Saleh and new teammate C.J. Mosley, who is expected to return to the field after opting out of last season due to the health crisis. He referred to fellow AFC North alum Mosley as “a great leader, a great guy” and further lauded what Saleh is cooking up with defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich.
“I think it was a scheme that fit my skill set, so it’s definitely attractive,” Lawson said of what brought him to New York. “I want to follow up on some of the greats…you had Mark Gastineau here, had the Sack Exchange. That was a long time before I was born. But I want to make my own legacy and keep it going as well.”
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags