Cornerback, drafted in the 4th round of the 2014 draft out of Utah State
Height: 5’9″ Weight: 192 lbs
NFL Experience: Four seasons with the Detroit Lions
Career Stats: 141 tackles, 20 passes defended, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 1 touchdown
Stickiness In Coverage
Lawson’s biggest strength is his coverage ability. Although he has yet to record an interception in his NFL career, he does a good job of staying with receivers and making plays on the ball. He has 20 pass deflections in his last 40 starts.
Here is one example of Lawson’s coverage ability, from the 2016 season against the Jaguars. Lawson was in one on one coverage against receiver Marquise Lee on the outside here. Lee ran a slant, and Lawson did a great job of sticking with him and getting his hands on the receiver to not only prevent him from making the catch, but pop the ball up in the air, resulting in an interception.
Don’t let Lawson’s short stature fool you, he is aggressive on the football field. He is not afraid to tackle, try to rip the ball free, or deliver big hits to cause incomplete passes.
This is a play from last season where Lawson really showcases his aggressive play style. Against the Browns, he had to make an open field tackle on tight end Seth DeValve. Lawson didn’t quite make the tackle, but he was able to rip the ball free, fall down on the ball, then get up without being touched and return the fumble recovery for a touchdown.
The deal that Nevin Lawson signed with the Lions this offseason was a fantastic one for Detroit. The Lions got him for $9,200,000 million dollars on a two year deal, or $4,600,000 per year. This is not only a fair deal relative to Lawson’s level of play (making him the 39th highest paid corner in the league), but it was a steal relative to what other corners got in free agency.
After watching non-star cornerbacks such as Malcolm Butler ($12,250,000/year), Kyle Fuller ($14,000,000/year), Trumaine Johnson ($14,500,000/year), and even the Lions own DJ Hayden ($6,333,333/year) get mega deals this offseason, Lions fans should be more than pleased with Lawson’s contract.
Although Lawson does at times make up for his small size with his coverage ability, there are times when he struggles against larger receivers because he is simply physically unable to cover them.
Lawson was in single coverage against the 6’1″ Packers wide out Davante Adams on this play, and it did not go well for Nevin. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers just threw a jump ball up for Adams, and, due to Lawson’s size, he simply was not able to contest the pass enough to cause an incompletion.
Over his career, Lawson has had more than his share of defensive holding or pass interference penalties. Last season, it seemed as if every time a penalty flag was thrown in the Lions secondary, Lawson would be the one who committed the foul.
In 2016, Nevin Lawson was the most penalized player in the entire NFL. During the 2017, Lawson committed another seven penalties. This is the largest area of Lawson’s game that needs improvement.
Outlook For 2018
Nevin Lawson will have the opportunity to compete with DeShawn Shead and Teez Tabor for the starting outside cornerback spot opposite of star corner Darius Slay.
If Lawson is not able to win the outside job, he will compete with Quandre Diggs for the nickel corner position. Diggs played safety towards the end of last season with a lot of success, so he could also possibly make a permanent move there, making Lawson the only real candidate for the slot corner spot.
If Lawson isn’t able to win either of those starting positions, he is a great depth player to have who can certainly come off the bench and play reliably when called upon.
Previous Free Agent Profiles: DeShawn Shead, Luke Willson, Christian Jones
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