It’s possible that I’m overrating Carl Lawson.
The SEC is loaded with top pass-rushing talent heading into the 2016 season — from Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett to Tennessee’s Derek Barnett, to Missouri’s Charles Harris, and not forgetting the formidable Alabama duo of Tim Williams and Ryan Anderson. Simply put, there isn’t another position within a conference in all of college football that is so loaded with talent.
That opening list doesn’t even do the conference justice, with several other talented players trying to crack the break into the top players at the position. One such player is Auburn defensive end Carl Lawson. It might come as a surprise to not see him quite mentioned with the best of the best when it comes to SEC pass rushers, but the truth is that Lawson isn’t quite there yet, and he must improve in a couple of ways if he is to challenge the likes of Garrett and Barnett.
As a pass rusher, he’s inconsistent. He’s been injury prone, which hasn’t helped, but still,
… In three of the seven games he played in last season, Lawson was held to two pressures or fewer, being held in check by Texas A&M, Georgia and Idaho. His pass-rushing productivity rating was impressive in the season-opener and the bowl game, but his inconsistency saw the pass-rushers mentioned earlier (along with LSU’s Arden Key) all finish with better pass-rushing productivity ratings than him.
If last year’s Georgia offensive line was capable of holding you in check, then, yeah, you’ve still got some way to go before you’re a dominant pass rusher.
When it comes to run defense, Lawson doesn’t even merit being called inconsistent.
At +2.1, Lawson’s run defense grade isn’t a problem in the sense that he grades negatively in that aspect of his game, but when compared to the other top edge defenders in the conference, there is a pretty clear gap.
The really telling player name above Lawson is Alabama’s Tim Williams. A pass-rush specialist who played just 36 snaps against the run last year, he was able to make more of an impact against the run than Lawson who, despite injury, played 207 snaps against the run. Lawson made 10 tackles resulting in a defensive stop against the run, compared with five from Williams. The difference was Williams did it on almost a sixth of the run defense snaps.
So where does he struggle against the run? In a number of ways. Lawson is athletic enough to get the better of most of the offensive tackles he’ll face as a pass rusher, but can often get caught over-pursuing at times against the run. At other times he was overpowered by opposing offensive linemen, being shoved too far inside at times.
Tell me that last paragraph doesn’t sound like any number of players Rodney Garner coached at Georgia.
Health isn’t the only thing Lawson may need to overcome this season.