Lawson had 8.5 sacks last season, just one shy of Carlos Dunlap's rookie record of 9.5. Ask Lawson, and he'd be quick to point out the sack that got taken away due to a a call on the field against the Browns on Oct. 1. Lawson actually knocked a tooth out on the play, but was more concerned about the fact the play was ruled an incomplete pass and not challenged because it was fourth-and-10.
Clearly the Bengals would like to see more plays like that, minus the tooth issue, of course.
Lawson was used primarily as a pass-rusher coming off the edge on third down and in nickel packages last season. That meant he was usually on the field for about half of the defensive snaps or less, depending on the game. The Bengals toyed with the idea of putting him at linebacker during training camp, but the idea was quickly shelved.
Lawson was a defensive end at Auburn, and he even admitted his coverage skills left something to be desired. He did play some linebacker during the season
The Bengals appear to be revisiting that idea, but not with the intention of making him an every-down linebacker who regularly drops into coverage.
According to Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, they want to rush him from different positions just to get him on the field more. Lawson could see more time at linebacker in base defense while rushing from the edge in nickel packages.
Lewis spoke to reporters at the NFL owners meetings this week and said he would compare Lawson's role in base defense to linebacker Peter Boulware, who played for Lewis in Baltimore from 1997 to 2001 when Lewis was the Ravens' defensive coordinator.
Boulware played his entire career in Baltimore and finished with 70 sacks, including 15 during the 2001 season, which was Lewis' final year there.
This seems to be one example of several changes that will be made under new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin this season.
“I think in Teryl’s vision, he sees the opportunity to utilize Carl more in the base defense than what we did with Paul,” Lewis said. “It goes back to where I was in Baltimore. Those are the things we feel good about. That involves Carl’s abilities in the base defense.”