PITTSFORD, NY – Ex-Bills head coach Rex Ryan had big plans for DE Shaq Lawson when the Bills drafted him with the 19th overall pick in 2016. Unfortunately, after spending the first six weeks of the season recovering from shoulder surgery, those plans never quite came to fruition. But injuries may not have been the only reason Lawson struggled to adjust to football at the pro level.
As the second-year edge rusher admitted on Saturday, scheme was a major issue as well.
“It was kind of odd,” Lawson said of the Bills drafting him to play in a 3-4 defense. “I knew I wasn’t a fit for that defense, they thought I was. And I just tried it out, but I wasn’t very comfortable. This year I’m just so excited because this is something I do. That’s what we did at Clemson. Same scheme, same everything.”
— Spencer T. German (@Spencito_) July 29, 2017
It’s a telling quote from the 23-year-old, who wreaked havoc as an edge rusher in a 4-3 scheme at Clemson, compiling 12.5 and 59 total tackles during the Tigers run to the National Championship game in 2015. In his rookie campiagn though – playing as more of a linebacker, pass rushing hybrid for Ryan – Lawson registered just seven total tackles and two sacks in 10 games. Now Ryan is gone, and with new head coach Sean McDermott implimenting a new defensive scheme, Lawson is back to worrying less about dropping into exotic coverages and more about doing what he does best – setting the edge and rushing the passer.
“From this year to last year, even though I was hurt, I was still having a tough time trying to learn the 3-4,” Lawson admitted. “This year, it’s just so easy. Have more understanding of what they do.”
It’s been obvious through the first three days of camp that his comfortability is at an all-time high, which has led to fruitful results out on the field.
“Last year I wasn’t really throwing [any moves]. I would just go out there and rush. Basically just doing my job, but I feel a lot more comfortable, and the defense is a lot easier so it’s allowed me to open up my game a lot more.”
Complaints of Ryan’s defense being too complex were a common theme throughout the locker room last season, but this year, players are lauding McDermott’s defense with buzz words like “easy” and “simple.” It’s just the most recent example of how different the culture is in Buffalo.
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