FLORHAM PARK — Carl Lawson has not had a double-digit sack season over his five-year career with the New York Jets and Cincinnati Bengals. It’s a mark that separates the elite pass rushers in the game from the situational ones.
2023 is the year that changes according to the pass-rushing dynamo.
When the Jets signed Lawson to a three-year, $45 million deal in 2021, the former Auburn standout was beginning to look like one of the best free agent signings New York had made in years throughout his first training camp with the team. Except Lawson ended up tearing his Achilles and costing him his first full season with Gang Green.
Now two years removed from his surgery and the defensive end is more than ready to show just how good he could be.
“It’s been a great offseason. Physically, it’s one of the best ones I’ve ever had…It’s the best I’ve felt since college. It’s truly a blessing,” Lawson said after Tuesday’s OTA practice.
Physically, the 28-year-old is a freak of nature at 6’2″ and 265 lbs. But his spiritual side has also improved during the first offseason he’s been able to participate in with Gang Green.
“I’ve been consistent in getting my Bible every morning. Some days you can become complacent because you didn’t get enough sleep or whatever. But you just have to be different, create a routine, and have superior habits,” Lawson explained. “This offseason…that’s one thing that has clicked for me.”
Lawson had a solid 2022 season following his injury, putting up seven sacks, 24 quarterback hits, and a career-high nine tackles for loss. Pro Football Focus graded his season at an above-average 66.8. But even his coaches know that the injury he sustained was not going to be a one-year recovery window.
“My personal experience would be Richard Sherman. When he had the Achilles injury, we signed him that first year, he had a decent year but was nowhere near where I remembered him. But that second year removed we said ‘he’s back.’ Just learning about Achilles injuries, it’s a two-year injury,” Jets head coach Robert Saleh explained. “He (Lawson) looks freaking awesome. I’m really excited for him and what he can do two years removed from that injury.”
If the Jets are going to be successful this season, they’ll need their waves of pass rushers to get consistent pressure on the quarterback this season. It also could be the last year in New York for Lawson who took a pay cut this offseason to create cap space for the team to bring in a Hall-of-Fame quarterback like Aaron Rodgers, and keep some of their high-priced talent.
That leaves plenty of pressure for Lawson and the Jets to get the most out of the current core of players.
But even with a looming free agency year upcoming, and the team drafting two pass rushers in the first round of back-to-back drafts, Lawson is just focused on winning and doing whatever the team needs him to do.
“I’ve already been in the NFL for so long. I’ve never been on a winning team, I haven’t made a pro-bowl, or been to the Super Bowl. I’ve had multiple injuries and come back better each time,” Lawson said.
Even though he’s focused on making the team better, it’s clear that the Jets’ pass rusher is prepared to make a statement on just how good he is entering his sixth NFL season. And that means putting himself into the elite category of pass rushers across the entire league.
“Double-digit sacks…it’s going to happen,” Lawson stated.
When asked why he felt so confident, Lawson simply responded with the word that is used around the globe.