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Lawson optimistic about diving into new DE role for Bills defense

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Manny Lawson’s role with the Buffalo Bills is less complicated this year. He hopes it will not be less significant.

The ninth-year NFL veteran is switching from 3-4 outside linebacker to 4-3 defensive end in the scheme of new Bills coordinator Jim Schwartz.

It’s a position Lawson played exclusively in college at North Carolina State, and he says he’s eager to embrace it again.

“It feels really good to be a defensive end again,” Lawson said after Wednesday’s minicamp practice. “It’s really see ball, go get ball. You don’t really have to worry about dropping too much into coverage and covering people man to man. I really like the engage with somebody immediately and make a play from there, as opposed to having to read and then see if you need to engage. I’d rather go ahead get it done and over with. To be a defensive end again and be with these guys again is fun. We’re going to have fun doing it.”

Lawson played 62 percent of the defensive snaps last season, coming off the field on a lot of third-down situations. A similar role awaits him this season – if he can win it.

The Bills have a quality edge-rusher in Jerry Hughes who will play in obvious passing situations. They need to spell Hughes on some first downs and obvious running situations. Lawson has the best credentials for the job but figures to be pushed for the role by unheralded free-agent acquisition Jarius Wynn, signed from the Dallas Cowboys.

Lawson has had two days of minicamp practices to get a feel for his new spot. He has not had a chance to play much 4-3 end in the NFL. He played in the 4-3 for two seasons in Cincinnati in 2011 and 2012, but he was off the ball as a linebacker in that scheme.

“As a competitor you always want to be on the field,” Lawson said. “I always want to be on the field. We have very talented guys on the D-front. It’s going to be whoever is more productive at that position. There is no just because you’re name is such-and-such you’re guaranteed a place. My mentality is the same. I want to be on the field, I have to produce.”

  • WHAT?

    A potential weak point for the defense. Hughes is not big enough to play end against the run, and Lawson is questionable. He did well at times last year, not so well others. From what I saw, technique was critical. If he did not have time or was out of position at all, he could not recover. Position should have been addressed in the draft.

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Vic Carucci returned to The Buffalo News as a Bills beat reporter in September. Carucci covered the Bills for 17 years before joining NFL.com as a columnist in 1999. Prior to rejoining The News, he spent three years as a senior editor for the Cleveland Browns.

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida.