Last season, the Cincinnati Bengals’ defensive unit finished third best in the NFL, and this season they have the tools to repeat, and even improve. They get key players back in defensive tackle Geno Atkins and cornerback Leon Hall, and one maybe unheard of player outside of Cincinnati, Emmanuel Lamur.
Lamur missed all of the 2013 season when he injured his shoulder in the final preseason game of 2013. Lamur was expected to be a starter in nickel packages, as he is a great coverage linebacker who gives receivers a hard time. With the return of Lamur, Cincinnati has one of the toughest linebacker corps in the league, featuring Rey Maualuga and Vontaze Burfict. Burfict was the ultimate underdog and has proven that he deserves to be in the NFL, and Maualuga is a veteran who hasn’t quite lived up to expectations since entering the league out of USC, but has shown improvement the past few seasons. Lamur added to this mix makes this unit one of the best in the NFL.
Lamur has gotten bigger, in the sense of adding muscle. He’s improved on his strength and speed during his rehabilitation and the coaches saw the changes in OTAs. His one career start came in his rookie year in 2012 in the Bengals’ wild card playoff game against the Houston Texans. Lamur played in 32 snaps and didn’t allow a reception his way when he was out on the field.
James Harrison leaving Cincinnati after only one season will really help Lamur see more playing time. Lamur has shown flashes of being great against tight ends and slot receivers and those two positions are what have killed the Bengals defense in the past. The Bengals moved Maualuga to the inside after they saw he wasn’t the answer at stopping teams on the outside, and now the job is Lamur’s. Lamur, like Burfict, was an undrafted linebacker who has a lot to prove but has outstanding potential. Lamur has the size and speed and athletic ability to take him to the heights that Burfict has reached. The potential for a breakout season is there for Lamur, but it is hard to gauge a guy who has played just nine games with one start, but whenever Lamur has been healthy coaches and players have raved about his performances at past training camps and in practices. Lamur could be just what the doctor ordered for the Bengals on defense to keep their defense one of the best in the NFL and if Lamur can live up to expectations, one of the best groups of linebackers in the league. Only time will tell.