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O'HARA: Lawson excited about level of talent & competition in secondary

The chemistry in the Detroit Lions' secondary didn't develop from a written formula, and there wasn't a single moment of discovery. No matter how it happened, Nevin Lawson can feel how it has become a part of the unit that's as important as the talent and experience of playing together.

As Lawson prepares for his fifth NFL season with the Lions, he is in a comfortable position as part of the equation that created that chemistry.

It's not something that breeds complacency. That is a word Lawson would never use to describe himself. Lawson is excited about the level of talent, depth and competition that produced the chemistry.

"I don't know the time it happens," Lawson said after a practice at the Rocket Mortgage training camp. "Chemistry doesn't have a time to it. It just happens.

"It's good to have so much depth back there and so many great players back there. It makes you want to bring your level of play up to them, or even better. It's going to help us a lot in the season."

Head coach Matt Patricia liked what he saw in Lawson from watching film, and Lawson has backed that up on the practice field.

"Nevin is a guy that on film, even just evaluating him last year and trying to just see what traits were really outstanding, I would say he's a tough guy," Patricia said. "He's a guy that likes to play physical, likes to play aggressive.

"He plays bigger than his size (5-9, 192). He's not afraid to go up against taller receivers. Once we had an opportunity to get the pads on, you can see that physical, aggressive style, which is good."

Lawson competes hard, even on the practice field. That was evident on a play when he broke up a sideline pass meant for Kenny Golladay – who has a height advantage of seven inches.

Lawson's aggressiveness and intensity have allowed him to beat out the competition to start every game except one the last three years. An injury caused him to miss a game last season.

The secondary has been a strength of the Lions' defense the last couple seasons, and it should be strong again this year with all four starters returning, plus key depth players.

The competition at Lawson's spot could be even tighter this year because of the signing of veteran DeShawn Shead and the development of Teez Tabor, a second-round pick last year.

Lawson doesn't back down from it. He welcomes it. He worked hard in the offseason to improve his skills.

"I continue to work on my game, as far as my body, working on my strength, my flexibility – working on my footwork," he said. "I did a whole lot of ball skills work. I did that more than anything. I'm just trying to be ball disruptive.

Lawson was eligible to become an unrestricted free agent this year, but he re-signed with the Lions on March 13, one day before the official start of free agency.

Lawson has reached a comfort level with Glover Quin, Quandre Diggs, Darius Slay and others to the point that even in a new defensive scheme their time together allows them to make quick adjustments.

That's important in learning a new scheme under Patricia and his staff.

"Having the experience of playing with them so long, I don't have to even say a word," Lawson said. "They just give me an eye signal, and I know what it is. That's definitely good to have.

"I feel like it helps me a lot, for me to just relax and go out and play. Just being able to understand the defense, play within the defense and be able to use that and understand that. Just let me be me."

Lawson has warmed to Patricia's coaching style, and how he relates to players.

"You can feel how passionate he is," Lawson said. "When he speaks to you one on one, you feel the sincerity and how much he wants you to be better as a person and a player."

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