One of the most important pieces to the New York Jets 2021 puzzle is edge rusher, Carl Lawson.
Apparently, Chris Roling of Bleacher Report agrees.
In a recent column, he listed the most notable NFL players that are worth keeping an eye out for during OTAs and Lawson made the cut.
Some of the top reasons the former Cincinnati Bengals stud was listed are his price tag, expectations, and the Quinnen Williams factor.
Money Makes the World Go Round
This offseason the Jets shelled out over $45 million with $30 million of that guaranteed to the former Auburn product.
Lawson earned the fifth-highest per year average on the open market of any NFL player ($15 million) and was the second-highest-paid pass rusher in free agency.
This is the first time the Jets have made a significant investment at EDGE since they selected Vernon Gholston sixth overall out of the 2008 NFL Draft.
The former Ohio State product became not only one of the biggest busts in Gang Green’s franchise history but also in NFL history.
That swing and miss seemingly flustered the Jets. Once they burned their hand on the pot, they didn’t touch it again for another 13 years.
With Money Comes Huge Expectations
Since the Jets don’t invest at pass rusher often when they do it’s a big deal.
With the green and white doling out that much money, they’re expecting Lawson to be the straw that stirs the drink on the defensive side of the ball.
The overall stats with the Bengals won’t wow you, but the analytical crowd loves Lawson. The former Bengal only had 20 career sacks in four seasons, but the next-level stats is what intrigues people.
83 career quarterback hits and 64 total pressures (fourth-most in the NFL last season) indicate that Lawson is close to breaking out.
The Jets are banking on Lawson’s talent and head coach Robert Saleh’s personal touch. That combination could prove vital to the Jets’ goals next year.
Speaking of Saleh, in his 4-3 scheme a necessary ingredient is rushing the passer and creating havoc. If the front four is unable to do so, the entire defense collapses, and opponents will be able to pick them apart.
The Jets haven’t had an edge rusher on their team that opponents had to specifically gameplan for since John Abraham. He hasn’t played for the team in 16 years.
The last reason that Lawson was listed as a player to watch is because of who won’t be there for the Jets during offseason training activities.
Rising defensive star Quinnen Williams went under the knife recently to repair a broken bone in his foot. That surgery will sideline him for the foreseeable future, but there is optimism in the building that he’ll be ready by training camp at the end of July.
With Williams out of the picture, Lawson will be the one to watch. Although the vision of both of them together is what Jets fans should be dreaming of.
Williams had a breakthrough year in 2020 with career highs in sacks (seven), quarterback hits (14), and tackles for loss (10).
Now consider the former Alabama star had that level of production with zero help from the rest of the 2020 Jets defense.
In 2021, Williams and Lawson should be one of the most fearsome dynamic duos in all of the NFL. They’ll both not only be players to watch, but stars to circle every week on the scouting report.