Bills defensive end Shaq Lawson is gearing up for the second year of his second stint in Buffalo, hoping to make his mark as part of a defense that has ranked top two or better in scoring three times since 2019.
With names like three-time All-Pro Von Miller and ascending talent Gregory Rousseau spearheading the Bills' pass rush, plus a host of other established talents across the defensive line, Lawson must again prove himself in a supporting, rotational role to cement his spot on the roster. That requires doing the dirty work.
"I'm the dog. I'm bringing that juice every day," Lawson replied Wednesday when asked where he fits in, per Ryan O’Halloran of The Buffalo News. "Whatever the coach needs me to do, I'm going to bring it -- set the edge, stop the run, take up blocks. That's where I fit in."
Lawson, who spent his first four years with the Bills after joining them as a 2016 first-round pick, provided a forced fumble and 3.5 sacks across 15 games (six starts) in his return last season.
It was a productive reunion for both sides. The veteran's sack total ranked fourth on the team, and he felt more himself after experiencing two trades and three different teams -- the Dolphins, Texans and Jets -- between 2020-21.
"Last year, I tried to get back to being me, and coach (Sean) McDermott has let me be Shaq," Lawson said. "He's let me be loud, let me talk junk and stuff like that. I didn't have that in the past. Once I got the confidence last year of him saying, 'Be you, be yourself,' that made me even more comfortable here. … I wasn't a pro at the beginning of my career, and once McDermott got here [in 2017], he changed me and made me the pro I am today."
The ripple effect of McDermott's arrival in Buffalo during the second season of Lawson's career has helped the DE become the product that he is heading into Year 8, but he hasn't stopped retooling. Whenever Miller returns from his torn ACL -- he believes he'll be ready for the season opener -- the room suddenly becomes crowded with Rosseau, Leonard Floyd, A.J. Epenesa and Boogie Basham. Beyond preparing for another effective season, the logjam of talent has necessitated that Lawson, 29, continues evolving.
"You can't keep your game the same, especially the older you get," he said. "You have to separate yourself. I'm just finding ways to develop what I did last year and build on that and be more of a pass rusher."
If the daily juice Lawson's bringing proves worth the squeeze, it means he'll stick with a team for consecutive years for the first time since 2019, likely spreading his talents across a number of roles for a defense looking to finally help put the Bills over the top.
Lawson is excited to see how it all plays out.
"My back is against the wall," he said. "I love betting on myself and then coming out here and proving year in and year out that I still got it."