Carl Lawson watches from afar — too far — as he yearns for the day when he can join the predator parties that Robert Saleh is hellbent on throwing, but the images on his television screen of the opposing quarterback under siege warms his proud heart in the meantime.
Just because you sack Ryan Tannehill seven times hardly means you are a modern-day New York Sack Exchange, but the personality of the Jets’ defense and defensive line in particular is impossible for Lawson to miss.
“A group of alphas,” Lawson told The Post. “I feel like everybody on the football field feels like they’re the best player in the league. And that’s how they play.”
And that’s how Saleh’s extreme-violence mantra can look on a television at home.
“I wasn’t surprised,” Lawson said in his first public comments since tearing his Achilles tendon Aug. 19. “We have a great group of defensive linemen. It’s been like that all year, it’s been like that throughout camp, everybody’s seen it. I wasn’t surprised at all by the D-line, but the marriage of coverage and rush was probably the only thing that really surprised me because we had a very young secondary.”
During games, Lawson endures predictable mixed emotions.
“Pretty envious, because I want to be out there,” he said, “but, I mean, very happy for a lot of people.”
This was destined to be Lawson’s breakout season. He was signed to a three-year, $45 million free-agent deal and was unblockable in training camp, even by left tackle Mekhi Becton. Lawson, only 26, can’t wait to be unshackled and unleashed with his brothers in a scheme he knows is tailor-made for him once his torn Achilles is right.
“I just want to be out there with my guys,” he said. “It gave me more motivation, but I’ve already been motivated to the max anyway.”
The sight of their fallen lead alpha showing up for the everyday meetings is inspiration to his brothers.
“I’m involved with my teammates not just to teach them, I learn from everybody whether it be a young guy or older guy,” Lawson said. “It’s a give-and-take relationship. We have a stable of guys with tons of talent. It’s a brotherhood, it’s not like a mentorship.”
I asked Lawson what makes Saleh’s meetings electric.
“They teach you a valuable lesson not just about football, about life,” he said. “Every day I go to a meeting I learn something and I write it down. It makes you want to go play hard for him.”
The way Lawson looks at it, just because the body can’t achieve doesn’t mean the mind can’t conceive.
“Every rep that everybody else takes, I take,” Lawson said. “I don’t really expect to miss a beat when I get back. I’m trying to be an improved player right off the bat. The mental aspect of the game is invaluable so I’m in tune with every rep everybody else takes.
“I’m playing through different people.”
Those different people:
Foley Fatusaki: “Just absolute overwhelming strength and power. Just pure dominance. Just a grown man for real.”
John Franklin-Myers: “Very unique skill set. The ability to rush effectively from inside and outside. For how big a guy he is, he’s not stiff at all, but at the same time, he maintains his power.”
Sheldon Rankins: “Spin master. Explosive three-technique. He was a Pro Bowler for a reason.”
Quinnen Williams: “Just pretty much dominant. He’s really natural. He’s not crazy technician, but he just has that it factor, whether he’s strong or knows how to use leverage. … He’s very natural, he’s just gifted.”
Bryce Huff: “I said this a long time ago, he reminds me of [former Colts DE] Robert Mathis. Just his speed and his bend.”
C.J. Mosley: “What else can people say? He was All-Pro for a reason.”
The Jets meet the Falcons on Sunday at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Lawson played in London two years ago with the Bengals, who lost 24-10 to the Rams at Wembley Stadium.
“The fans are just out there just having a good time, I don’t feel like they’re picking one team or another,” Lawson said. “It was dark but it was like real light, just weird, but it was a good experience.”
No one said getting acclimated to being a spectator would be easy.
“I’m doing good, just following the protocol and just continue to get better each day,” Lawson said. “Not always great emotionally cause you’re not playing, but it is what it is.”
What would he tell Jets fans about what they can expect with Carl Lawson back on the defensive line?
“Expect a better player than when I left,” he said.