The Buffalo Bills are still waiting to receive the bang for their bucks that they expected from defensive end Shaq Lawson.
So is Lawson — to the point that the team’s 2016 first-round pick said he has shed 12 pounds in an effort to avert the injuries that have slowed him in his brief NFL career.
“I’m the lightest I’ve ever been. Right now, I’m like 263 and I used to play at 275,” Lawson told Buffalo’s official website after the conclusion of organized team activities on Thursday. “So I’m 12 pounds lighter and I’ve got 17 percent body fat.
“I’m faster and I just feel a lot more fluid with that weight off me. I want to keep dropping weight. My goal for the start of the season is to be at the most 260 with a 15 percent body fat percentage.”
Lawson was the No. 19 overall pick of the Bills in 2016 after a star-studded career at Clemson. Yet he has appeared in only 21 of 32 games in his first two seasons — 11 of them starts.
An ankle injury in early December ended Lawson’s sophomore season. He had a team-high 4.0 sacks at the time before going on injured reserve, forcing him to miss the Bills’ first playoff game since
“I knew what I had to do,” said Lawson. “My rookie year I missed the first eight games and then last year I missed the last few important games including the playoffs. So, sitting back and watching our playoff game I was like, ‘I’ve got to stay on the field. Whatever I have to do to stay on the field I’m going to do it.’ I’ve got to be the best I can be and what they drafted me to be.”
Lawson got a late start on his profession career. He started his rookie season on the physically unable to perform list while recovering from shoulder surgery and did not make it onto the field until Week 7.
At Clemson, Lawson led the country with 25.5 tackles for losses and was a consensus first-team All-American in 2015. However, he was limited to 13 tackles and 2.0 sacks while appearing in 10 games, mostly in a reserve role, as a rookie.
In an effort to bolster his production and become the pass-rushing force the Bills were expecting when they drafted him, Lawson said he has been working with former NFL defensive end Chuck Smith to hone his techniques.
“My attitude has changed,” said Lawson. “I come in every day like my job is on the line. Just the way I approach things and handle things now, I come in like I’m fighting for a job. Just take one day at a time. Continue to stay focused and develop as a pass rusher.”
Buffalo defensive coordination Leslie Frazier said the injuries have had a considerable impact in Lawson’s first two seasons but noted the difference in him this year.
“I think he’s come back in even better than he was a season ago. His mindset and his attitude is really, really good,” said Frazier. “He’s in a good place mentally, which is good for us and it’s showing in the way that he’s practicing. You can see that sense of urgency in the way he’s working and hopefully that’ll carry over into the fall. Right now, he’s definitely coming in with a different attitude and a right approach.
“It was hard for him being injured at the end of last season; that was a tough part for him to miss out on the run that we made at the end of the season,” added Frazier. “To come back this offseason in a good frame of mind, really looking forward to having a breakout year, it’s put him in a good mental place.”