ST. JOSEPH, MO –
After bouncing on and off the Chiefs 53-man roster since selected as a sixth round out of McNeese State in 2009, Lawrence made the unlikely move as a third-year pro from wide receiver to cornerback. It’s a switch he’s come to completely embrace.
“I love cornerback,” Lawrence said after Sunday’s practice.
Even more than wide receiver?
Lawrence knew a switch might be coming, but wasn’t able to get confirmation from the coaches because of lockout restrictions. The move became official when Lawrence reported to training camp.
“I was preparing myself for both defensive back and wide receiver,” he said.
The Chiefs began toying with Lawrence as a defensive back last season as a scout team player. Injuries had forced the wide receiver to switch sides and give the offense coverage looks. He was previously two-way player at McNeese State, playing in defensive sub-packages as a freshman and senior, but had always been a return man and wide receiver first.
“There were days when we were short defensive backs and generally that’s a receiver that you throw over there and he was one of them and showed a couple of flashes on the show team, so discussions started,” Haley explained. “We said, maybe he has a chance. We continued to work him through last year over there and made the decision in the off-season to actually make the switch.”
“You’re never ready until you get on the field and actually start doing it,” Lawrence added. “First day I was a little off. Second day I was a little off. But now I’ve started to learn the defense and where my help is at and where it’s not.
“It’s getting comfortable. I have some really good coaches in Emmitt Thomas and Otis Smith, plus Eric (Berry) and Brandon (Flowers) have been helping me out a lot, doing overtime work.”
More impressive than anything has been Lawrence’s attitude since shifting to the defensive side of the football.
Having never made it a full season on the active roster as a wide out, many wrote off Lawrence’s chances for making the team at a brand new position. Especially when players like
That type of scenario can quickly derail a player into becoming a JAG (Just A Guy) or nothing more than a camp body. But Lawrence hasn’t faded into oblivion. Instead, he’s embraced the opportunity.
“The one thing you saw from him was no quit,” Haley said.
Lawrence has made far more progress over the first two weeks of training camp than anyone would have expected.
He led the Chiefs with seven tackles in Friday night’s preseason opener and parlayed that success into Sunday’s practice. After making several nice defensive plays in 7-on-7 and 11-v-11 work, the new-look cornerback grabbed a pick-six off
“I thought he was one of the brighter spots the other night,” Haley said. “You’re talking about a guy, his first real game action out there at the corner and they have some pretty good receivers that played a good bit. That was a good sign. That was encouraging. We’re not going to pull up the Canton truck yet, but that’s encouraging and I think he’s excited and that’s a good thing.”
Last week, Lawrence showed he’s not afraid to get his nose dirty when he squared up to lay a big hit on FB
“When you play receiver it’s a little different, but learning cornerback has made me more aggressive,” Lawrence said. “I have a different mindset and mentality on defense.”
Thus far, Lawrence’s only glaring mistake hasn’t come in coverage or anything related to playing a new position. His mistake was taking a kickoff return five-yards out of the end zone and only advancing the ill-advised takeback to the eight-yard line.
“I should have been smarter about that, but I wanted to make a play,” Lawrence said.
And who can blame him?
Maybe the deck is stacked against Lawrence making the roster as a defensive back. Maybe his progress over the past two weeks is just a flash. But maybe it’s not.
Either way, he’s doing everything he can to get noticed.