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Carl Lawson is a productive pass rusher in the NFL. After racking up 19 tackles for a loss, 20 sacks and 83 quarterback hits over his four seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, the Auburn product got paid this offseason.
He signed a three-year, $45 million deal with the New York Jets that will move him from situational player to full-time starter. That rise up the depth chart should come with an increase in sack production, but Lawson doesn’t think he — or anyone else — should be judged on sacks alone.
Last week, Lawson went on the Jim Rome Show, and the two discussed his low sack numbers in Cincinnati. His response? Sacks don’t mean everything.
“You can’t judge somebody based off of sacks as far as how productive they are, but if you want to get to that elite status, where you’re considered an elite defender, then you need to convert those pressures into sacks, if you get what I’m saying,” Lawson said, via NFL.com. “And I’m confident that I’ll be able to do that, because I feel like I’ve had tons of limiting factors to just go against me and still be highly productive. So I’m excited, and I’m still improving, so I’m extremely optimistic.”
The 20 sacks in four seasons have caused some to wonder why Lawson got such a big pay day. Considering he led the Bengals edge players in snaps last season with 723, those questions might be warranted to a degree.
Lawson has missed games in the past, but he played in all 16 games last season and started 11 of them. Despite those snap numbers and his role as a starter, he produced only 5.5 sacks. He had 8.5 sacks his rookie season in 2017 when he was working as a situational pass rusher.
He did produce a career-high in QB hits with 32, however, which was 10 more than he had in any other season. That’s great, but fans and talking heads are going to overanalyze converting pressures and QB hits into sacks. So if Lawson wants to justify his $30 million guaranteed on that contract, he’ll need to average more than the five sacks he’s averaged so far.
Is that fair? Absolutely not, as there are many ways to gauge disruption other than sacks, but as Lawson points out, that’s the stat everyone focuses on. Luckily for him, he believes he’s going to be able to get there.
That’s music to the ears of Jets fans everywhere.
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Follow Clint Lamb on Twitter @ClintRLamb.