Lawson has undergone arthroscopic knee surgery since the end of the regular season, USA Today reports.
This procedure is completely unrelated from the injury that delayed the start of Lawson's rookie season last fall, as that issue solely concerned his shoulder. In fact, this surgery appears to have been minor in nature considering the 2016 first-rounder isn't expected to miss any part of the Bills' offseason program.
With the hiring of new coach Sean McDermott and the expected shift to a 4-3 defense, Lawson is likely to be used as more of a defensive end in 2017, BuffaloBills.com reports. Said Bills radio analyst Mark Kelso, "Shaq Lawson would be a defensive end in that scheme, which means he'll be defending on the line of scrimmage most of the time and not dropping into coverage."
McDermott had plenty of success as the DC in Carolina and he likes to let his linemen put pressure on the passer, so Lawson -- mostly as a linebacker in 2016 in spot duty following a midseason return from a shoulder injury -- could end up being a nice sack candidate for next season if he earns a pure starter's role. That'd be especially true if Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams, Lorenzo Alexander, and Jerry Hughes all end up back with the Bills, as those guys would draw plenty of attention from opposing offenses.
Lawson had just one tackle and hasn't posted a sack since Week 9. Even though his promise is unlimited, playing a limited snap count and as part of an outside linebacker rotation means you can do better the last two weeks. Next season, things may change for the first-rounder.
Lawson is expected to start this week against the Steelers, BuffaloBills.com reports. "He's going to play a lot more. He's going to be our starter this week and he's earned it," said coach Ryan on the Rex Ryan. "He does a great job shedding blocks. This is what we knew about him. I think the time he missed with all of training camp set him back, but you're starting to notice him more and more. This is what we really like about this young man. He plays extremely hard and he's only going to get better."
Lawson's stats -- nine tackles and two sacks in six games -- have been modest so far, and with Lorenzo Alexander and jerry Hughes working on the outside in most of the team's looks, we'd still expect the rookie to sit his share of plays. Still, the 6-6 Bills likely want to start planning ahead, and Lawson's expected to be a key piece next season.
Lawson has plateaued a bit after coming out of the gates with two sacks in his first three games (four total tackles and no sacks in the last three games combined), as the team can't keep him on the field in certain situations due to his inexperience. After all, he had no training camp or preseason due to shoulder surgery. The first-rounder from Clemson will be better suited for IDP discussion next season.
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