ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – When he was drafted 19th overall back on April 28th, Shaq Lawson was declared an instant starter at OLB. No one anticipated that six weeks would pass before he’d even have an opportunity to make his NFL debut. But off-season shoulder surgery kept the Clemson Tiger from participating in training camp, and he ultimately began the 2016 campaign on the physically unable to perform list, which requires a player to sit out at least six weeks before being able to return to the practice field and eventually the 53-man roster.
For Lawson that wait is over. Rex Ryan confirmed Monday that the rookie will practice on Wednesday, however, as eager as everyone to see him in action, Ryan and the Bills are taking a very patient approach.
“We’ll see where he’s at,” Ryan said at his usual Monday press conference. “He hasn’t had one day of practice, an NFL practice … but we’ll see how he is and we’ll look at it as the week goes on to see if he will play. I thought initially, yeah man, we waited this long for our first-round pick, but we have to do the smart thing and do what’s best for the young man also.”
Ryan wouldn’t say one way or the other if Lawson would play against the Dolphins this weekend.
To this point Lawson’s workload has consisted of ladder drills, conditioning, and blocking air with no pads on. He’ll need some time, but his return does bolster an already stout pass rush that is second in the league is sacks (20). It’s a unit led by the NFL’s current sack leader LB Lorenzo Alexander, who, ironically enough, has done a tremendous job holding down the left outside linebacker spot that was supposed to belong to Lawson.
“I think moving forward, it’s get in there and spell some guys and maybe can he play in the sub team? Can he do some different things? We’re going to find out,” Ryan explained of the rookie’s role. “But we know he’s a really good talent, and I think combined with the players we have, I think he’ll be good. You know, I think as far as saying well, is he a starter? No. He’s not going to start now. I think Lorenzo Alexander has earned that. But we are going to work Shaq in there.”
Alexander has tallied 37 total tackles and a league best eight sacks so far this season. His unexpected output serves as a great luxury for Buffalo who can now take their time getting Lawson ready, before thrusting him into a starting role. As Ryan eluded to, they’ll use his special pass-rushing ability in certain sub packages and help preserve the 33-year-old Alexander and Jerry Hughes during base looks. More than anything he’ll provide depth at the LB position, which the Bills will surely appreciate. It certainly never hurts to have more viable pass rushers at your disposal.
It is absolutely terrific for us, Ryan said. “The other thing is the type of guys Jerry Hughes, Lorenzo Alexander, that will be the best thing that happens for Shaq … I mean he is going to benefit a lot from these guys.”
So the wait is, mostly over.
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