The New York Jets finally have a terrorizing threat off the edge
I said it a couple weeks ago – Carl Lawson was not far from breaking out. Despite a relatively quiet start to the season, Lawson looked to be in peak physical condition and was getting better each week. He just needed time to regain his rhythm after sitting out an entire season.
In Week 5, Lawson found his rhythm again. It resulted in the most dominant performance by a New York Jets edge rusher in many years.
Lawson collected seven quarterback hits against Miami, setting a Jets franchise record since the stat was first tracked in 2006. It also ties Lawson for the sixth-best single-game total by any NFL player in the stat’s history.
The Jets’ previous team record was five, shared by defensive tackles Muhammad Wilkerson and Leonard Williams. The best mark by a Jets edge rusher was four, shared by Quinton Coples and Lorenzo Mauldin.
It’s safe to say that the Jets have not had an edge rusher in Lawson’s stratosphere over the past 16 years. New York’s last edge rusher of Lawson’s caliber was John Abraham, whose final season with the team was 2005 – one year before the introduction of the QB hits statistic. Nevertheless, Abraham had 53.5 sacks in 73 games as a Jet, giving him an average of 11.7 sacks per 16 games.
A premier edge rusher is one of the most valuable assets a football team can have, and the Jets have not had one since before the release of the Nintendo Wii. In Lawson, it seems they have finally broken that curse.
Let’s take a look at how Lawson was able to dismantle the Dolphins’ offense.
Carl Lawson film vs. Dolphins
Lawson did not get to play many reps against Miami’s star left tackle, Terron Armstead, as Armstead left the game after only eight snaps. But Lawson essentially beat him for a sack before he went out.
Armstead takes a very aggressive set on this play, turning his hips fully to the outside and stepping out to meet Lawson. Lawson dips his inside shoulder and throws a rip move as he slices upward with his inside arm. He wins around the corner and has an angle for a sack, but Armstead holds him to prevent it. It’s a 10-yard penalty and the Dolphins are forced into third-and-20.
Lawson does a nice job of staying disciplined on the edge as he reads the action in the backfield. Once he confirms the Dolphins are passing the ball, he converts into his pass rush. Lawson draws a favorable matchup against Mike Gesicki (one of the worst blocking tight ends in the NFL) and takes full advantage.
Lawson bull rushes Gesicki to get to the QB – great job of getting low and keeping his hands tight to get them into Gesicki’s body. He grabs the QB with his inside arm and then swings his outside arm around the back side to punch the ball out. Quinnen Williams picks it up and charges Tyreek Hill his New Jersey state taxes.
Lawson would battle former Jets tackle Brandon Shell for most of this game. Shell developed into a fairly league-average tackle over his time in Seattle, but this is just a terrible play by Shell. He is playing way too high, his feet are choppy, and he overcommits outside to leave the B-gap wide open.
Lawson makes him pay for all of those blunders. He gets low and bull rushes Shell, dodging Shell’s punch in the process, leaving him completely clean. Lawson recognizes the open lane to the inside and takes it, staying low to the ground so he can get underneath Shell and avoid his last-ditch effort to make contact. Lawson destroys Skylar Thompson and forces him into throwing a near-interception to Kwon Alexander.
Quick note – sure, Lawson took advantage of some bad blocking in this one. But the Jets have played many bad tackles and bad tight ends over the years, and they have rarely taken full advantage of it. Now they finally have a guy who will consistently exploit favorable matchups. Lawson didn’t just do well against his bad competition – he dominated. When you’re facing a bad opponent, beat him up.
Nice handiwork from Lawson. As Shell engages, Lawson uses his outside hand to deflect Shell’s outside hand and keep himself clean on that side. However, Shell does make contact with Lawson’s upper body using the inside arm, giving him a slight push to the outside.
Lawson recovers well after this. He frees himself up by violently raising his inside arm and wiping away Shell’s inside arm. From there, Lawson is clean, and he throws a rip move to bend the corner and get home for a bit hit. Michael Carter II finishes things off on the back end with a great pass breakup.
Lawson squares up to Shell and raises both arms to fake a bull rush attempt. He successfully baits Shell into throwing his punch, opening the gate for him to dip underneath and win around the corner with the rip move. He forces a checkdown and gets a big hit.
Most of the previous wins we saw from Lawson came on plays where he punished his opponent for coming at him aggressively. This time, he wins against a patient blocker.
Lawson sees Shell dropping into his set with his hands low and an open chest, so he wastes no time seizing the window of opportunity. Lawson slams his outside foot into the ground and explodes off of it into the bull rush. He tops it off with a rip to get home for the hit. Bryce Huff meets him there.
I think this one is more impressive than it looks. Yes, the Dolphins are not blocking Lawson because it’s a screen, but Shell does try to chip Lawson to at least protect the QB from a hit. Lawson feels it coming and subtly dips underneath Shell’s outstretched arm to keep himself clean. Watch his inside shoulder and his inside arm – it’s some Matrix stuff.
This allows Lawson to get into the backfield quickly enough for a legal hit on the QB. If he allowed himself to be chipped, Lawson would get there too late to lay a hit without being penalized.
From there, Lawson shows off some remarkable closing speed and then finishes with a bone-shattering hit. It’s very impressive that Skylar Thompson was able to deliver this throw accurately.
Jets fans are seeing something they are not used to
The Jets have been one of the worst edge-rushing teams in the NFL since John Abraham’s exit, and it has placed a cap on the potential of their defense. Can you imagine how good the early Rex Ryan defenses could have been with a Lawson type? Even some of the Jets’ mid-to-late 2010s defenses could have reached elite status with Lawson on the field.
Gone are the days in which the Jets’ edge rushers are only noticed when they make a hustle sack that was teed up by great coverage. Finally, the Jets have an intimidating threat who is capable of consistently destroying plays on his own.
If Lawson continues playing at his current level – he is second among edge rushers in QB hits (14) and 11th in total pressures (19) this season – the Jets’ defensive ceiling will rise to heights they have not seen in quite a long time.