Bengals’ Lawson pushes aside talk of future

Cincinnati Bengals' Carl Lawson (58) reacts after sacking Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger during the first half of an NFL football game, Monday, Dec. 21, 2020, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Cincinnati Bengals' Carl Lawson (58) reacts after sacking Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger during the first half of an NFL football game, Monday, Dec. 21, 2020, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Credit: Michael Conroy

Credit: Michael Conroy

Defensive end is in the final year of his contract with Cincinnati

Carl Lawson didn’t want to talk about whether he believes he has a future with the Cincinnati Bengals beyond this week’s season finale.

Lawson, who is in the last year of his contract and admits he is superstitious, doesn’t want to “jinx” how well things are going for him and the Bengals right now.

Cincinnati (4-10-1) prepares to host the Baltimore Ravens (10-5) on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium with a chance to finish on a three-game winning streak and possibly prevent the Ravens from the playoffs. It’s a game that could be big for Lawson if the front office needs more swaying about his future.

“I don’t want to talk about anything offseason wise,” Lawson said. “I’m going to cut you off now. Don’t ask any more questions. I told you I had goals. I don’t want to talk about anything related to it. I really haven’t thought about any of that stuff, and I’ll just tell you Cincinnati is a great place, but don’t jinx it. … I’m having some things go good my way. I’m going to stop you there.”

Lawson had three goals going into 2020, and he is close to finishing two of them. One goal was to become a starter (he moved from a third-down role to starter in Week 5) and the other was staying healthy and playing a full season (he’s one game away from 16).

His third goal was related to sacks, which he didn’t want to go into specifics about but won’t reach. He’s got 5.5 sacks this season, three below what he totaled in his rookie season in 2017 in more limited snaps, but he’s been among the league’s best in pressuring quarterbacks. Lawson has 40 pressures, 12 hurries and 31 quarterback hits.

“Pass rush is critical in this league, and Carl has done a nice job of that, pressuring the quarterback, getting hits on them and affecting the games,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “It’s good to have somebody like that who affects the quarterback.”

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson can be a tough one to get to with his mobility, though.

The Bengals have sacked Jackson five times in four games since 2018 and three of those came in his first career start. He’s never been sacked more than once in a game against Cincinnati since then, and he is 4-0 against the Bengals as a starter.

“The same reason he’s been successful against everybody else -- because he can run and throw,” Lawson said when asked why Jackson has been so tough to beat. “Gotta stop him from running and throwing.”

Cincinnati came up with a solid game plan for Jackson in the first meeting this season, holding the talented scrambler to just 3 yards rushing on two carries and 180 yards passing. Where the Bengals struggled was in turnovers and giving up big gains to other players. Baltimore finished with 161 yards rushing with two carries for 34 yards or more in the 27-3 win in Week 5.

Lawson said that wasn’t a typical game for Jackson, though. The Bengals will have to be ready to attack.

“I think we did a good job executing the game plan, but I also think he was coming off injury,” Lawson said. “He didn’t practice that whole week if I recall. So I mean, they might’ve been a little more cautious with him that game, but I do think we executed the game plan well that we were coached to do. Just minimize his running.”

Asked what the Bengals need to do this time to be more successful, Lawson said it’s all about playing assignment football. That’s tough for a pass rusher like him because he likes to be aggressive and just run and hit. Assignment football requires more patience.

“Those games can be fun too because you can just go Kamakaze and go hit people because you’ve got one assignment,” Lawson said. “I remember I think we played Centennial (Ga.) in high school and they had this little wishbone triple option. You just go hit one guy and that’s your guy. It’s a little bit different in the NFL because of better athletes. It’s pretty fun. Minimize it, do your job.”

SUNDAY’S GAME

Ravens at Bengals, 1 p.m., CBS, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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