BENGALS RE CARL LAWSON VS. GIANTS LT ANDREW THOMAS
No one has knocked down the quarterback more this season than the relentless Lawson with 14 hits, highlighted by his six-hit shutout against Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. He didn't get a sack that day in Pittsburgh, but you're never going to find the always forward-thinking Lawson get down as he looks to add to his 4.5 sacks Sunday (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Fox 19) when the Bengals play the Giants.
"He was getting the ball out really fast. But I've got to stay the course. I can't frustrated over it. They will come," says Lawson, who is also sixth in pressures. "That's the other thing. I can sit there and find ways to get there even faster. I'll put it on myself. Even if I'm seen as fast by most people, I'm going to raise the expectations to damn near undoable so that way I'm going to continue to improve and get better."
Thomas, the fourth pick in the last draft, is playing better after struggling early in the season when he was getting beat to the inside. Pro Football Focus has him allowing an NFL-high six sacks among left tackles, as well as six hits. But former Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander, who worked with Thomas in the run-up to the draft, sees improvement.
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"Thomas is playing better the last three weeks," says Alexander, an NFL Radio analyst on Sirius. "He's settled down and is more patient with feet and hands."
But Alexander is fully aware of Lawson, the fourth-rounder his guys blocked that rookie year of 2017.
"You have to match Lawson's leverage and tenacity," Alexander says. "Since he's a power rusher he doesn't get the sacks because he doesn't come clean with moves. But his pressure is real from pushing the tackle into the quarterback. So unfortunately he doesn't get the notoriety that he deserves because everyone is sack-minded. But among NFL circles, they recognize his impact."
According to PFF, Lawson has higher pass rush grades than Chase Young, Nick Bosa and Everson Griffen, but he takes as much pride in his work against the run. With 425 snaps this season, he's 23 plays away from playing more downs than he did last year and 53 away from setting his career high. He believes this year's promotion to playing more downs has unveiled more of his skills. He's been part of a run defense that has held teams to fewer than 100 yards rushing in four of the last six games, their best stretch since the end of the 2016 season.
"It definitely helps give you a feel for the (pass rush) game, but I think I've been able to show I'm good against the run and pass," Lawson says of the regular work. "As far as I'm concerned, each and every week I'm in the league, especially with an increased role this past year, I'm going to try and keep improving until I reach the top and be the best in the league."
Lawson is one of the great pros in the Bengals locker room, a guy that studies the game as well as well as he takes care his body with a 24-7 attitude immersed in the game. The fourth-round pick doesn't care about Thomas's No. 4 draft slot, just his sleeve length. Lawson, a Greater Atlanta product, was told Thomas played at Georgia.
"I don't care about their background too much. Just how do they play the run game, the pass game," Lawson says. "I know he's a high draft pick. Good athletic ability. Really long arms. He's gotten better throughout the season," Lawson says. "It will be a fun matchup. I love to compete against good players."
And that includes Giants quarterback Daniel Jones, the No. 6 pick from 2019. Without injured running back Saquon Barkley, the 6-5, 221-pound Jones is their leading rusher with nearly eight yards per carry on 49 rushes.
"He has very, very good straight line speed," Lawson says. "He's a big quarterback. He can open it up. He's got top end speed straight line."
Top ten pick or undrafted, Lawson doesn't care what's over there on the other side. He just wants to get to the top of the NFL.
"I'm trying to improve on finishing off my rushes and getting forced fumbles. Things of that nature," Lawson says. "(The foe) doesn't matter. Everybody wants to get on the field and do well. Tom Brady was a sixth-round pick."