By signing Carl Lawson this offseason in free agency, the Jets bolstered a defensive line that was already in the process of growing into one of the best units in the league.
In the eyes of new defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich, however, Lawson donning green and white could unlock another level of Lawson's game.
Lawson only had 5.5 sacks in 2020, playing in his fourth season with the Bengals. For some, just under six sacks would be a solid season. Considering Lawson set a career-high with 32 quarterback hits, however, it's clear there's another gear in the 25-year-old's game that the NFL hasn't seen yet.
Installed in New York's defensive scheme, Ulbrich believes Lawson can immediately increase his sack totals, benefiting from the talented pieces around him on the defensive line.
"A lot of times edge rushers miss because quarterbacks can step up into the pocket," the defensive coordinator explained. "We have so many interior guys, I don't know how much of a pocket there will be to step up into. So from that standpoint, I think he could definitely have an increase in sack total."
Ulbrich mentioned Quinnen Williams, Folorunso Fatukasi, Sheldon Rankins and more, players that can get to the quarterback through the middle. It also helps that Lawson has the skillset to get to the quarterback on his own.
"Obsessed with the game, obsessed with the technique and he wants to become the most technical pass rusher in the league," Ulbrich said. "He works his butt off to do that. So I can't wait to get him in the building. He's gonna have, I think, a tremendous influence on the other guys, when they see the work ethic."
With other studs like Vinny Curry and Ronald Blair—signed by the team this past week—the sky is the limit for this defense. That all starts with Lawson and his presence on the edge.
"You look at San Francisco, they went from a top 10 [defense] to top three, top two, top one, when they added Nick Bosa and when they added Dee Ford. When they finally got speed element outside to complement what they had on the inside," Ulbrich said. "Having a speed element that can make a quarterback pay when he does hitch is essential. So he's going to be a huge part of our success."
Lawson's single-season career-high is still 8.5 sacks, from his rookie year in 2017. Sounds like that number, and any other statistical benchmark, is in danger of being surpassed in 2021.
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