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Change in approach has paid dividends for Bills DE Shaq Lawson

Shaq Lawson might not ever become the type of game-changing defensive end the Buffalo Bills’ previous front office thought it was getting when it chose him in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft.

That doesn’t mean he’s not a contributor, though. Lawson has carved out a role as a rotational defensive lineman, seeing time at both end and tackle this year. His playing time Monday night figures to go up with starting defensive end Trent Murphy out because of a knee injury.

“My approach is the same every week,” Lawson said Saturday. “If you think about it, at one point in time I was the starter last year. My approach is the same, week in and week out: Prepare like I’m a starter.”

That work off the field has gone a long way with coach Sean McDermott.

“He’s done a good job. I think he continues to develop in terms of his approach to his job, and just being a professional,” McDermott said. “I think that has translated into more success on the field and more trust on the field.”

Lawson, who has seven tackles, one sack and one forced fumble in 2018, was challenged by the coaching staff to improve his work habits this offseason. Bringing Murphy in was also an indication they weren’t totally satisfied with what they were getting out of Lawson.

“It was time for a change, you feel me? They told me that,” Lawson said. “That’s what coach McDermott preached the whole offseason. He knows I can play ball but just needed to be more of a professional on and off the field. So I took that approach.”

Lawson has been willing to fill in at multiple positions. That includes playing an entire game at defensive tackle. He’ll be at end Monday against the Patriots.

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“It’s a big stage. We know what Tom Brady is – future Hall of Famer,” Lawson said. “We’ve just got to execute our game plan one play at a time. Whatever can help the team win, whichever position I’ve got to play to help this team be successful, I’ll do it.”

Lawson missed two games earlier this season with a hamstring injury. One of his goals is to finish the season healthy since he has yet to play more than 12 games in either of his first two years.

The Bills will go with just three defensive ends against the Patriots, with Lawson joining Jerry Hughes and Eddie Yarbrough.

Running back LeSean McCoy was officially listed as questionable on the Bills’ final injury report. McCoy is still in the NFL’s concussion protocol. He practiced all week on a limited basis while wearing a red, non-contact jersey.

McCoy still needs to clear the concussion protocol before he’s eligible to play Monday, but that can happen at any point.

Murphy, quarterback Josh Allen (elbow) and running back Taiwan Jones (neck) were all officially ruled out after not practicing all week. Running back Chris Ivory (hamstring), right tackle Jordan Mills (knee) and quarterback Derek Anderson (calf/back) were removed from the injury report and will play against New England.

The Patriots ruled out defensive back Eric Rowe (groin) and offensive lineman Brian Schwenke (foot). Rookie running back Sony Michel is doubtful because of a knee injury. New England lists nine players as questionable. Never change, Bill Belichick.

One of those questionable players is tight end Rob Gronkowski. He missed Week 7 because of a back injury but told New England reporters he feels good.

The Amherst native practiced on a limited basis for the third straight day.

“I’m doing whatever I need to do to get back on the field,” he said. “I have been taking steps every single day forward."

Gronkowski, who has tormented his hometown team for years, is looking forward to the atmosphere inside New Era Field as Monday Night Football returns to Buffalo for the first time in 10 years.

“It’s going to be nuts,” Gronkowski said. “I’m from Buffalo. They’re going to be starting early. … It’s going to be popping. Straight popping.”

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