The Buffalo Bills defense is riddled with talented athletes. To name a few, Pro Bowl DT Kyle Williams, 2013 sack leaders DE Mario Williams and DT Marcell Dareus, who also made a trip to Hawaii last January. Safety Aaron Williams and LB Jerry Hughes also had breakout seasons. These are obvious names that first come to mind on Buffalo's roster.
A player that is not at the forefront when mentioning the defensive core, but probably should be, is DE Manny Lawson.
Lawson often flies under the radar being on the second unit and not posting numbers comparable with those Bills defenders earning league-wide accolades. Nevertheless he is revered by his teammates and considered just as pivotal to Buffalo's success as any other playmaker.
"He's a very versatile player," said fellow end Jerry Hughes. "He can play numerous positions on the field. He's a big, strong, tall fella. With those attributes right there I don't see how he couldn't help [any team]. Here he helps us out tremendously, just by having those attributes. Being able to get on the field, find a way to get to the ball, no matter who has it. It speaks huge for him. His football IQ is off the wall."
Case in point, in last week's contest versus the Bears, Lawson recorded one tackle, but one that could have swung the game for Chicago.
At the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Bears had the ball and a first down on their own 25-yard-line. The play was to RB Matt Forte who took the ball to the left – Lawson's side – where Lawson shook TE Martellus Bennett and brought down Forte two yards behind the line of scrimmage. Three plays later, the Bears were punting.
This comes as no surprise to Lawson who is always preparing and always ready for his chance to get on the field.
"Not starting right now, you have to be ready to go out there and play. You can't say 'I need to warm up. I need a couple plays' because those guys are already warm so you have to be ready," said Lawson.
He also talked about being accountable when he gets on the field and taking mental reps when he's not. Lawson says that just because he doesn't start doesn't mean the 10 other guys on the field don't rely on him. This mentality helps him turn in key plays.
And like anybody else on the team, he is always watching film and asking questions of coaches in preparation for a game.
More tangible proof of Lawson's abilities can be seen in last year's regular season statistics.
He was third on the Bills roster in total tackles with 73 behind Alonso's monster 159 takedowns and Aaron Williams 82. Lawson also was fourth in tackles for loss and fifth in sacks behind the four starting defensive linemen.
And considering that Lawson saw only 722 snaps – eighth most on the defense – that means he records a stat on 10 percent of plays he is on the field for.
If you ask him, though, he is not bothered by being left out of the limelight.
"I don't mind being the guy that's behind the scenes," he said. "I have fun playing this game. I've been playing this game so long, so to continue to be able to play and continue to be on the field is all fun and games."
Lawson's teammates recognize his character and respect his humility toward the game.
"I'm sure that's the last thing he's concerned about," said Kyle Williams when asked about Lawson's lack of headline recognition. "Manny's a worker. Manny cares about what's best for the team and what he can do fits in our defense."
For Lawson, it's just business as usual.
"Whatever it takes for us to get out there and get our job done and come out with a win, that's what my mentality has been," he said.
Based on statistics and from the collective opinion of his teammates, the term 'reliable' is what best describes Lawson's game. When asked if he thought the nickname 'Mr. Reliable' would stick, Lawson just laughed.
"I'll wear it proudly," he said.