The 2021 New York Jets OTAs have brought a ton of excitement to the fanbase. After the hiring of head coach Robert Saleh, the franchise received an extremely high turn-out at the voluntary workouts, signaling the dawn of a new day for the organization.
A few players were missing from OTAs, however, and one name stood out. Carl Lawson.
The former Cincinnati Bengals edge rusher was possibly the second-most important addition this offseason, outside of quarterback Zach Wilson. The Jets paid a small fortune to sign Lawson during the free agency period, and fans wondered where the defensive star was.
Now any questions or fears can be put to rest. Lawson has arrived at Jets OTAs.
Void on the Edge
As we’ve mentioned in the past, the Jets have not had an edge rusher like Lawson since the early 2000s when John Abraham donned a green and white jersey.
The all-time Jets leader in sacks is Mark Gastineau (1979-88) with 74.0, but Abraham and his teammate Shaun Ellis round out the top three with 53.5 and 72.5 respectively. Although Ellis’ total trounces Abraham’s, he did play double the amount of seasons.
Lawson could form a similar duo with defensive tackle Quinnen Williams. The new edge spoke about Williams in his inaugural press conference, saying his presence on the defensive line added “another attractive option” to join the Jets.
Williams is coming off a breakout sophomore season, with 7.0 sacks and 14 quarterback hits plus 55 combined tackles (10 for a loss) and two forced fumbles. Unfortunately, a foot injury has kept Williams from OTAs, so fans will have to wait to see the pair on the field together.
Another thing Lawson talked about on his media day was his future. He made it clear that now that his family is secure financially, he can put all the focus on “taking care of [his] body” and his “craft.”
The big-money acquisition noted that he loves the process of team-building and player development, including his own workouts and conditioning programs. He said that he’s “excited” about the sense of optimism surrounding the Jets.
Influence on Those Around Him
The pass-rusher from Cincy was awarded by general manager Joe Douglas for his pressure rate and “sacks created,” rather than his personal statistics. Seth Walder of ESPN’s Next Gen Stats did the work to determine Lawson’s effect on those around him.
Next Gen Stats also ranked Lawson as the seventh-best “disruptor” in the NFL in 2020. For both of these statistics, the edge rusher ranked below names like Aaron Donald, Myles Garrett and T.J. Watt, who are some of the best defensive players in the league.
Entering just his fifth year in the NFL, Lawson will look to carry that consistency over from season to season. That’s what he means when he talks about his craft.
It’s not just pass-rushing technique, or increasing footwork and hand-speed, it’s about building the Carl Lawson brand and becoming a household name within the sport. Coach Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich may be able to help with that, but at the end of the day, it’s on Lawson to put in the work.