Shaq Lawson is a big man, even if he never will be the largest Shaq in the history of professional sports.
Speaking of namesakes, Lawson also was acquired by the Jets earlier this week to replace injured pass rusher star Carl Lawson on the team’s defensive line. But the six-year NFL veteran is feeling no pressure to perform like anyone but himself since his arrival from the Texans in a swap for a sixth-round draft pick earlier this week.
“Not at all. I’m just going to give them the Shaq Lawson version,” he joked after his practice in Florham Park on Wednesday. “I don’t got no shoes to fill.
“[Carl Lawson] is a great guy. Everybody thought we were cousins for a long time. We really told people that in college. But nah, man, whatever the team needs me to do, I’m just going to do my job.”
Shaq Lawson has totaled 20.5 sacks since the Bills drafted him out of Clemson with the 19th overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft. Four of those sacks came in 14 games last year after he inked a three-year deal worth $30 million with the Dolphins as a free agent.
The trade to the Jets marked the second time Lawson was moved in 2021; the Dolphins dealt him to Houston in March.
“It’s a blessing. I want a job,” Lawson said of coming to the Jets. “The reason I left for Miami was the opportunity, to take care of my family. At the end of the day, man, I’m waking up doing something I love every morning. In the NFL, it don’t matter what team you’re on, if you’re on a team, somebody wants you.
“That’s when I’ll start worrying. When nobody wants you, it’ll be different.”
One change Lawson fully expects to have a positive effect on his game is a return to a 4-3 defensive scheme under first-year Jets coach Robert Saleh after being utilized as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 system with the Dolphins. He admitted the “last time I felt like I was myself” was as a defensive end in a 4-3 alignment with the Bills in 2019.
“I know what type of coach they’ve got up here, who they brought up here,” Lawson said. “I think my energy matches [Saleh’s] energy from when I saw him coach the 49ers’ defense the last couple of years. When I found out I was coming up here, I was excited. That’s what I like to do, be myself.
“I could tell Coach [Saleh] likes dogs and I felt like I meet what he wants.”
Carl Lawson had said similar things about Saleh’s defense upon arrival from the Bengals after inking a three-year deal worth $45 million in July. He was the talk of training camp until suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon while the Jets were holding joint practices with the Packers in Green Bay two weeks ago.
The two Lawsons are similar in stature. Carl is listed as 6-foot-2 and 265 pounds, while Shaq is an inch taller and five pounds heavier, according to the Jets website. If Shaq Lawson plays well and Carl Lawson recuperates from his injury, they conceivably could be on the field together in 2022, since both are under contract.
In the meantime, Shaq Lawson will be part of a rotation at defensive end that also features John Franklin-Myers, Bryce Huff and Tim Ward, who was claimed off waivers earlier this week from the Chiefs.
“This defense, you don’t have to go think, you just go attack and be aggressive,” Lawson said. “It takes the thinking out of football. That’s what I mean when I was being myself. Bring my personality, actually be myself and show what type of guy I am.”