Raise your hand if you doubted that defensive end Shaq Lawson would return to the Buffalo Bills for the 2023 season [scans audience looking for hands]. Okay, I see...zero. Zero hands in the air. Yeah, this felt like a foregone conclusion but now we can call it official, which is pretty nice. For most of us, Lawson is a known talent — but let’s take a peek at how he did on the biggest stages last year.
Play 1 — Edge setter
If there’s one comment that’s sure to appear in any discussion about Shaq Lawson, it’s how well he sets the edge. To do that a player need discipline, good brakes, good vision, and the ability to change direction. Or in other words, you won’t find me disagreeing that Lawson is a good edge-setter.
Play 2 — ♪ All we need is just a little patience ♪
Here’s more of that edge-setting ability. Lawson saw the ball moving away from him (to our left) but saw the possibilities of the play developing and was patient enough to see how it shook out. The result?? He was able to force Tyreek Hill to the edge and keep the play contained.
Play 3 — Subtlety
As players tend to do, Shaq Lawson has picked up some tricks over the years. Lawson isn’t likely to win too many contests with a straight up shoving match (more on that later). What he will do is out-finesse his opponent from time-to-time though. During this play, the left hand shoving the bicep prevented shoulder rotation and pursuit. Lawson followed up with a dip and sidestep. Neither are otherworldly good but thanks to that initial bicep shove he had a head-start on getting around the edge.
Play 4 — Pass coverage
What’s the one word to remember about the Bills and their defensive personnel preference? “Versatility.” Lawson provides that and can offer reasonable talent in coverage. On this play, that versatility allowed linebacker Matt Milano to blitz linebacker Tremaine Edmunds slid to his left (our right) to cover. The Miami Dolphins had a good play dialed up to beat this, so give credit where it’s due. Plays like this are a bit of a gamble, and this roll of the dice wasn’t a resounding success for Buffalo. It also wasn’t a big loss either if we’re keeping track.
Play 5 — Power
As promised, I said we’d come back to the idea of Shaq Lawson not bowling over opponents. He never has, and likely never will. I’m not suggesting he’s incredibly weak either. I’d say he holds his own reasonably well.
Play 6 — Punch
There are two points where Lawson makes this work. The first happened a bit before my pause as the left tackle tried to sweep Lawson’s hands away. Lawson kept his balance and continued to drive forward. At the pause, he’s recovered to punch the right shoulder of his opponent, who was rocked back. This is a good reminder that individual success and team success are different. Not that anything significant happened after my pause.
Most additions to a team either change the team’s ceiling or floor. Shaq Lawson technically doesn’t change either since he was on the team last season. That said, both this year and last I’d call this a move to keep the floor where it’s been. And the floor for the Buffalo Bills’ defense is very high for a floor. Lawson adds versatility and experience. Those are never bad things.