When it comes to division rivals, short of actually losing to them, there is pretty much nothing worse than when they get a player that you wanted for your own team, and for some fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Cincinnati Bengals have gotten a number of such players over the course of the past few years.
One of them, for me at least, and a few others, was Carl Lawson, whom they managed to draft in the fourth round. It’s not exactly something that I can deny given that I mocked him to the Steelers in the second round, but, of course, the need for him was dramatically lessened when they were able to get T.J. Watt in the first round.
Regardless, however, I remain curious about his career development, and I have written about that previously already this offseason. Remember, it was considered rather curious when the Bengals drafted Lawson because he seemed to profile more as a 3-4 outside linebacker, lacking the natural frame of a 4-3 defensive end.
But Cincinnati doesn’t plan to use him as a tradition 4-3 defensive end—in fact, they seem set primarily to play him as a linebacker, at least at the start of his career, and to give him rush opportunities off the edge in obvious passing situations.
Head Coach Marvin Lewis was asked about Lawson during minicamp recently, and he said that the fourth-rounder has looked “tremendous all the way through” with regards to what he was looking to see from him at this time of year, which was “the burst, the ability, the flexibility, how they’re using their hands and their extension against blocks”.
Based on his comments, it seems that the head coach is a bit more impressed up to this point with Lawson than with Jordan Willis, whom the Bengals drafted earlier, but he also said that Willis is beginning to come around as the offseason moves forward.
A reporter asked Lewis if he worried that playing Lawson at linebacker could hinder his ability to get after the passer, to which he responded in the negative. He said that the college defensive end has been able to make a smooth transition so far in part because he already played on his feet some at Auburn.
“I don’t think right now that he has quite the frame to be an every-down defensive end in the NFL”, he said, but when a reporter followed up about if he thinks that can come with time, Lewis responded, “I don’t think he needs to”.
So all in all, the Bengals don’t seem to be concerning themselves all too much with the specifics of how and where they are going to get Lawson on the field. They drafted him to help with their defense, and with their pass rush, and he will be able to do that, they believe, wherever they end up putting him, which figures to be in multiple positions.