I've read it everywhere. Every single Eagles fan wants Nnamdi Asomugha (or NA for short), Logan Mankins, or Chad Greenway (or all 3 if we can afford them). It;s got to to the point where it's become ridiculous, and all the fans have suddenly put on their "Big FA" blinders for the year. I, however, am taking a different path and trying to look at players who are still good and fly under the radar a fair bit, and the one that stuck out to me the most as I was looking was OLB Manny Lawson.
Manny Lawson was drafted at pick #22 overall to the 49ers in 2007. He plays at 6'5 240 with blistering pace for a linebacker (4.43 40 time). An undersized college D-End from NC state, he was pushed into a 3-4 OLB role when he joined the 49ers.
More after the Jump....
There are a number of positives to like about Manny Lawson on our Defense, I'll go through them one at a time.
1. Coverage Skills
Lawson has probably the best set of coverage skills for a linebacker in the NFL. Yes, even better than the golden child Chad Greenway. Lawson was asked to cover tight ends a lot of the time during his stint with the 9ers, meaning that he played more of the role you'd expect out of a 4-3 OLB (Blitz + Coverage) than a 3-4 OLB (Outside pass rush).
That's great to hear, but is he any good? Yes. The guys at Niners Nation frequently say that Lawson is simply the best LB that they'd trust in a one on one situation with a Tight End. They said they could just leave him alone and he'd be fine to guard a tight end properly.
This should make sense to the Eagles. Tight End/Half Back coverage was a shambles for the last two years. Maybe it was to do with McD's scheme, but I personally think the coverage-less scrubs they troted out onto the field at OLB the last couple years have something to do with it. Lawson will immediately shore up the coverage of TE's.
2. Block Shedding and Blitzing
As a 3-4 OLB, Lawson was asked to take blocks on and Blitz a lot. Not as much as say, a traditional 3-4 OLB as Lawson's pass coverage skills meant he dropped back in coverage a lot of the time. Still, he was asked to set the edge a lot of the time against both run plays and pass blitzes.
I gotta say he did perfectly at both, maybe it helped that he was playing next to Patrick Willis, but Lawson has great hand placement, instincts, and keeps his feet moving at that delightful pace to get through, around and generally past blockers in his way.
Why this makes sense to the Eagles can be seen in the way Jim Washburn runs his D-Line in that the Linebackers behind must be ready to take on blocks more readily than other systems. Lawson can take on blocks and get around where he needs to be/go.
3. The Fat Controller's Linebacker Preferences
Not a major point, but one that I feel might be worth bringing up. Andy Reid has a tendency to bring in former undersized college DE's as LB's with very limited results (Chris Gocong, Max Hall, I believe Trent Cole was drafted with this in mind). Lawson is a former D-End at a college level who succesfully transitioned.
Now that's gotta be worth something....
4. So what the downside...?
Consistency, or at least that's all I can find. Lawson has played a little hot and cold for his 4 years in San Fran, but that could be blamed on what most experts say as the fact that he is working in a scheme he is not ideally suited too. A move to a team like ours will help immediately, I think, in helping Lawson solve his issues.
In conclusion, I like Lawson as a prospect a lot. He is a perfect fit for the Eagles D, and could easily start at either OLB spot right away, where he can actually cover tight ends worth a damn, take on blocks as well, and generally be the first stud Linebacker we've had here in a very long time