1- Shaq Lawson talks emergence, makes bold 2019 prediction
Shaq Lawson entered his third professional season with a chip on his shoulder.
He viewed the offseason acquisition of Trent Murphy as a wake-up call, a cruel reminder that starting jobs are not guaranteed. The former first-round pick, who had recorded just 46 tackles and six sacks through his first two professional seasons, was eager to live up to initial expectations, to prove that he’s a starting-caliber defensive end.
Lawson did just that in the 2018 season, totaling 30 tackles and tying a career-best four sacks. Batting down passes became a key part of the pass rusher’s game, as he deflected six passes. Carlos Dunlap and Derek Wolfe are the only defensive ends who tallied more pass deflections than Lawson this season.
Lawson’s ability to consistently get after opposing quarterbacks is what fueled his breakout.
“I feel like I improved with my pass rush,” Lawson said. “I affected the quarterback a lot, I got to the quarterback a lot this year, most since I’ve been in the league. That was my goal, just to focus on being a consistent pass rusher.”
Though Lawson progressed on the field in the 2018 season, perhaps his most considerable growth was made off it. The 24-year-old became a true professional in his third season, something that head coach Sean McDermott wanted to see from him.
“Just changed my habits, you know?” Lawson said. “Learned how to become a pro, that’s what Coach McDermott preached he wanted me to do. He wanted me to grow up and learn how to be a pro. I just took that into my head and found ways to be a great pro.”
Coming off what was arguably his best season as a professional, Lawson is eager to take another step forward.
“Hopefully I can turn it up one more notch,” Lawson said. “Get better every year, that’s how it goes. Come back with double digit sacks next year.”
2 - Why Derek Anderson wanted to stay in Buffalo
Buffalo finally has something that it hasn’t had in quite some time - stability at the quarterback position.
The Bills solidified their quarterback room with the re-signing of Derek Anderson on Monday morning. The 35-year-old Anderson feels as though Buffalo’s future is incredibly bright, something that motivated him to stick around for another season.
“I’m excited about where we’re going and the strides we made in the second part of the season,” Anderson said. “Young guys in here, Josh [Allen] is doing a great job, I enjoy working with Brian [Daboll]. That’s obviously a huge thing for me. Going forward, I think we have a chance to win a lot of football games. I want to be a part of it.”
The Bills brought Anderson in midway through the 2018 season in a mentorship capacity, wanting him to pass his 14 years worth of professional experience onto quarterback Josh Allen. The veteran’s presence did benefit Allen, as the rookie made considerable progress as the season moved forward.
Having Anderson back in the room next season will be beneficial for Allen yet again.
“It’s great news for me, having him here for another year at least,” Allen said. “He’s been extremely helpful in this past year. He’s a great guy, great quarterback to have in the room. He can spin the ball still. He’s an old guy, but he’s pretty awesome. He’s one of the good ones for sure.”
The signing of Anderson comes just days after the team re-signed backup quarterback Matt Barkley to a two-year extension. Having an identical quarterback room next season will allow Buffalo to carry over the progress it made this year, according to Anderson.
“I think it’s good for our room, just so we’re all on the same page, hearing the same message,” Anderson said. “We’ve got a great room, and keeping that going, the energy that we have in there, the strides that we’ve made within the room have been great. That’s a huge part of it, obviously to build on what we just finished off the last eight weeks.
3 - Allen, Edmunds nominated for NFL Rookie of the Week
Buffalo’s first-round draft picks closed out the 2018 season in identical fashion - with their best outings of the campaign.
Both Josh Allen and Tremaine Edmunds played incredibly well in the Bills’ 42-17 win over the Dolphins. The two looked like experienced veterans, both effectively controlling their respective sides of the ball.
Allen completed 17 out of 26 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns. He picked up another 95 yards and two scores on the ground, finishing the game with a career-high five total touchdowns.
Edmunds led the way for the team defensively, playing well both in coverage and against the run. He came up with a few impact plays, as well, tallying an interception and a sack. He finished the game with 12 total tackles.
The rookies’ tremendous play has been recognized, as both Allen and Edmunds have been nominated for the NFL’s “Rookie of the Week” award in Week 17. They’re going up against Baker Mayfield, Saquon Barkley, and Kyle Allen.
There’s a 40 percent chance that a Bill will take home the final “Rookie of the Week” award of the 2018 season - but it’s up to you to make sure that either Allen or Edmunds win. You can vote for your favorite out of the two at this link.