Cornerback Nevin Lawson has always been one of Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell's favorite players because of the physical style and bulldog attitude with which he plays the game.
"He fights, he scratches, he digs and gets after it," Caldwell said of Lawson this offseason. "You're going to get his best every single time, every single day, every single period. Meetings and outside of meetings. When a guy is giving you that kind of effort, you certainly appreciate it."
Lawson, a fourth-round pick in 2014, missed nearly all of his rookie year with a foot injury. In his second season, he became a starter after Rashean Mathis suffered a concussion midseason. He started all 16 games last year, playing 90 percent of the team's snaps on defense.
Caldwell said Lawson did "OK" in his first full season as a starter, and expects him to continue to get better.
Pro Football Focus graded Lawson as the 29th-best cornerback in the league last year.
He was the second-most avoided cornerback in the NFL last season, playing 8.3 coverage snaps per target thrown his way, according to Pro Football Focus statistics. The only player challenged less was Patrick Peterson of the Cardinals.
No cornerback from the 2014 draft class has allowed fewer yards per coverage snap (0.92) than Lawson over the last three seasons.
"That stuff really doesn't matter to me, man," Lawson said, when asked about some of the metrics. "The only thing that matters to me is coming in and doing my job.
"The only thing that shows skills is what I do on film. None of that numbers stuff matters."
Last season, Lawson was targeted 65 times and allowed 43 receptions (66.2 percent) for 443 yards and five touchdowns. Quarterbacks targeting him had a combined passer rating of 111.2.
Part of the reason that rating is so high is because Lawson failed to record an interception a year ago. In fact, he's still looking for his first career interception.
He knows that if he's going to continue to be a starter opposite Darius Slay in Detroit's defense, he needs to make more impact plays.
"It's a big point (of emphasis), especially for me, I've been working on this offseason," Lawson said. "Just hand and eye coordination, ball skills, that's one of the things I want to make big plays this year. Those game-changing plays and turning that ball over. That's big for me this year."
The competition at cornerback will be some of the stiffest on the entire team in training camp with the additions of veteran DJ Hayden in free agency, and Teez Tabor (second round) and Jamal Agnew (fifth) in this year's draft. The Lions currently list 11 cornerbacks on their 90-man roster.
"I know the one thing he's going to put on film is that he's a physical guy," Slay said of Lawson. "I know guys know if they see No. 24 out there it's going to be a dogfight. That's one of the guys on our team who probably competes the most at anything.
"I have a lot of confidence in him. I've been playing with him going on two years now. Great guy. He works hard. He listens. Right now, you can tell he's more detailed about his stuff. I've always told him, 'You got to make big plays because that's what will hold you back. Don't be scared to make a mistake.'"
Lawson's physical brand of football fits with Detroit's defense, but he knows that he must continue getting better and find a way to make more impact plays if he's going to remain in the starting lineup moving forward.
"I feel like I've continued to get better and that's what I'm going to continue to do," he said. "As a football player, you never stay the same. You either get worse or you get better. My goal is to continue to get better."