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Camp Countdown: No. 13 - What should be expected from Shaq Lawson?


Lawson's career can best be described as hopeful and somewhat turbulent.

Since being selected in the first round in 2016, a bevy of injuries, combined with uncertainty about preparation at the NFL level; has left some wondering what Lawson's role could look like in 2018.

On a positive note, the Bills' coaching staff, along with Lawson; seem to be brimming with optimism about his potential in his second year under head coach Sean McDermott.

"For Shaq, it's time that he steps up," said McDermott. "He's adopting the habits of what it takes to be successful in this league. He's consistent with his approach off of the field, and his approach on the field."

With high expectations from his head coach, here are a few things that Bills fans can expect from Lawson in 2018.

1. A greater sense of commitment

By all accounts, especially his own, Lawson seems to have reached another level of commitment and determination; one that he fell short of in his first two seasons.

"I've got to be the best I can be and what they drafted me to be," said Lawson.

Although a wholesale attitude change is something that is often hard to be certain of; Lawson appears to have truly reached an epiphany.

"My attitude is changed," said Lawson. "I come in every day like my job is on the line."

Some may argue that this mentality should have been present from day one, but a sudden realization of what needs to be done in order to succeed, is something that happens relatively often in the NFL.

Former Bills defensive back Aaron Williams, also turned things around after showing little promise early on.

His improved commitment has translated into tangible confidence for the 24-year-old defensive end.

"This is going to be a great year for me," he said. "I've just got to get back to where I was when I was in college."

Injuries have been an issue with Lawson, as he has played in just 21 of a possible 32 games in his first two seasons.

However, Lawson seems to have implemented a plan to prevent further injury.

"I decided to take this step first," said Lawson. "I'm taking care of my body, eating right, and doing the extra things to keep my body right. I'm trying to be more proactive, more of a pro."

Lawson appears to have fully adopted his new approach, and he has turned it into a comprehensive lifestyle change.

2. A leaner and faster body type

In the NFL, it is quite common to see players undergo a change in body type, so as to better fit a certain role on a team. Whether it is a running back dropping weight to become more elusive, or a defensive end shedding pounds to gain a quicker first step; these changes can significantly improve a player's chances at success.

Lawson has decided that his best chance at contributing in the NFL, involves him losing weight and focusing on becoming leaner than before.

"I'm the lightest I've ever been," said Lawson. "Right now, I'm about 263 pounds, and I used to play at 275 pounds. I'm faster and I just feel a lot more fluid with that weight off of me."

The defensive end looked significantly quicker off the line in the spring practices. Even though he's seen early improvement, Lawson is determined to continue his body transformation.

"I want to keep dropping weight," he said. "My goal for the start of the season is to be at the most 260 pounds, with a 15 percent body fat percentage."

In his first two seasons, Lawson seemed as though he was a few pounds away from sliding in at defensive tackle. Now, he seems poised to contribute more consistently to the pass rush in 2018.

He understands that the extra weight he was bearing, was likely a large reason for his injuries.

"Not doing all of these little things is probably why I got hurt in the past," Lawson said. "I'm trying to do everything I can to prevent that. I'm faster than I ever was; I'm leaner."

Check out photos of the Bills defensive line.

3. More production

As a defensive end, and a productive one in college, most were expecting more than six sacks in his first two seasons combined.

Although he has not yet performed to his full potential, defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier believes that Lawson is primed for a breakout campaign in 2018.

"I've seen a concerted effort to improve, and he did some good things for us last season," he said. "I think he's going to come back even better than he was a season ago. His mindset and attitude are really, really good."

It is common to see an increase in production as NFL players become more accustomed to the lifestyle, and as they gain a greater understanding of what it takes to perform at the highest level.

In the case of Lawson, seemingly every person who has been around him recently, recognizes the changes that he has made to his lifestyle and his game.

A more focused Lawson, combined with his natural progression and growth, should lead to far more production in 2018.

Lawson strives to be a contributor on this Bills team, and coach Frazier recognized his frustration last season.

"It was hard for him being injured at the end of last season," Frazier said. "That was tough for him to miss out on the run that we made at the end of the year."

Lawson has been focused on improving his body, his mind, and his willingness to put in the work that is necessary to succeed; and that should translate into significantly better play in 2018.

Lawson realizes what is at stake for him this season.

"This is how I eat," he said. "So I'm taking it one day at a time."

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