Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict was impressed when he watched Lawson on TV last Sunday. Burfict, who was serving a three-game suspension, came away from the loss excited about Lawson's abilities.
In some ways, Lawson has come a long way from training camp, when the Bengals were trying to see if he could play linebacker for the first time in his career. But in other ways he's picked up right where he left off in the preseason, when he got his first NFL sack against Redskins tackle Trent Williams, who is considered one of the best at his position.
"Man, he comes off the edge with no care," Burfict said on Wednesday. "Just watching him when I was watching the game, I was getting all fired up because of where he came from, coming in as a standup linebacker and now as a defensive end. It's helping the team a lot."
Burfict remembered a conversation he had with Lawson in training camp when the rookie was trying to figure out his new position. Lawson was still trying to figure out his coverage skills at the time, but was explosive in practice when asked to rush the quarterback.
"First thing he told me was 'Tez, I don't know nothing about standup linebacker but I do know how to rush,'" Burfict said. "So just to see him go out there and sack Aaron Rodgers, it's huge."
Added Lawson: "I've still got a lot to learn and the guys in the locker room have done such a great job teaching me. That's the beauty of football, this game is constantly evolving."
The Bengals let Lawson do what he does best against the Packers, lining him up as a defensive end when they were in their nickel package. Lawson was a one-man wrecking ball for most of the game, finishing with 2.5 sacks (an additional sack was nullified by a penalty) and seven pressures, according to Pro Football Focus.
That's likely where the Bengals will keep him, at least for now. With so much success at defensive end, the linebacker experiment will have to wait.
"With young players, the best thing to do is to allow them to do things that are natural to them -- things they did before (in college)," said Bengals coach Marvin Lewis. "Then, as they grow, you get more opportunity because of things that have changed, or having to learn the ins and outs that will come."
Lawson's job will get significantly harder this week. Lawson was going against a backup tackle last week against the Packers. This week he'll draw Browns left tackle Joe Thomas, a future Hall of Famer and one of the best tackles he will probably see in his career.
"It will be an opportunity to play against one of the more veteran players that he's played against," Lewis said. "When we went over to Washington, he played against (Trent Williams), and now this is another accomplished player -- the first real accomplished player -- that he's played against all regular season."