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Manny Lawson has a ‘full plate’ in Buffalo’s defense

Rex Ryan has not revealed too much of his defense in two exhibition games. Players rave about its flexibility, its creativity, its ability to attack an offense in a multitude of ways.

Up front, Mario Williams, Jerry Hughes, Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams are the ones who combined for 40 sacks last season.

But the team has also gotten creative with 10-year veteran Manny Lawson. He's been asked to do it all.

"Wherever the coaches want to put me, I'm excited to be on the field and my role being expanded," Lawson said. "I rush the quarterback, cover man to man and drop in the zone. So I've got a full plate."

Two years ago, in Mike Pettine's 3-4, Lawson had 73 tackles and four sacks as a full-time starter. Last season, in Jim Schwartz's 4-3? He didn't start a game with 20 tackles and 1.5 sacks. So it's back to that full plate, and then some, under Ryan.

Lawson has been an outside linebacker in eight of his 10 pro seasons, so this isn't anything new. With Ryan, there's more layers of confusion. The Bills see a linebacker who's athletic enough to handle the workload.

During one 7-on-7 period Tuesday, Lawson dropped and extended for an impressive pass break-up. Quarterback Matt Cassel was trying to connect with a receiver in the secondary and Lawson got a hand on it. Such athleticism is the reason San Francisco drafted him 22nd overall in 2006. Lawson ran a 4.43 in the 40-yard dash with a 39 1/2-inch vertical.

And the 6-foot-5, 240-pounder believes he can still be this athletic specimen.

"Until I show differently, yeah," Lawson said. "I can still run. I can still cover. I can still play the run. Whatever's asked of me to do, I can get it done."

If he had to do all of that pre-draft testing again, Lawson says his numbers would be close, too. Maybe a little slower in the 40, but he doesn't see his game fading at 31 years old.

 

Back in the spring, when he was learning the in's and out's of this defense, Lawson said that he can "create chaos" in his role. He's not pigeonholed as a pass rusher or a run defender, rather roaming and mixing it up play to play.

"Just having a bunch of talented guys out there on the field. It takes a lot of pressure off of my me," Lawson continued Tuesday. "When you have D-linemen who can get after the quarterback and corners who can cover, for the most part all I have to do is get to the ball."

Many high-profile prospects in that 2006 draft class are long gone. Lawson says the reason he's still here is an "understanding" of the defense and taking care of his body.

In Ryan's defense, he'll be one roaming chess piece.

"There is a lot there," Lawson said. "It's nothing that I can't handle."



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Neil S. Schwartz

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Jonathan Feinsod

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