Carl Lawson will be a breakout star
The Bengals’ defensive line is a unit that many expect to be one of the strongest units on the team, myself included. With the addition of D.J. Reader, the defense will field a dangerous starting line, including Carlos Dunlap, Geno Atkins, and Sam Hubbard, along with the previously mentioned free agent from the Texans. One name that has been forgotten, however, is Carl Lawson.
Lawson may just be the most talented pass-rusher on the entire roster and I expect that to show more than ever in 2020. In his first three seasons, Lawson has posted pass rush grades of 75.1 in 2017, 80.9 in a short 2018 campaign, and 64.3 in 2019, according to Pro Football Focus. These are all solid grades that show one thing: Carl Lawson can rush the passer. If more opportunities are given to the fourth-year edge rusher in 2020, his production could skyrocket.
Over his three year career, Lawson has only played on a total of 1,159 defensive snaps. In those snaps, he has accounted for 14.5 sacks and 51 total QB hits. For reference, the Bengals had a total of 1,034 defensive snaps in the 2019 season. Lawson has played a little over a full defensive season of snaps across his three-year career and he has shown great production in that time. While he will never be a player who gets 70%+ of snaps, an increased workload in 2020 with a skill set that will only get stronger as time goes on, Lawson could be in for a big statistical year.
One contributing factor to keep an eye on is that Lawson is entering a contract year. Players looking for new contracts often have the best seasons of their careers. In order to improve his standing in free agency, Lawson will be fighting hard for a breakout season. Don’t be surprised to see the fourth-year edge rusher get 11-12 sacks.