While there have been some very notable blips here and there, by and large the Cincinnati Bengals’ scouting department turned a major corner in the 2010s when it comes to their most important assignment: the NFL Draft. It wasn’t too long ago that they were being discussed as among the teams with the deepest roster in the entire NFL.
The overall level of talent has slipped some, particularly on the offensive line, since then, and that has had to do with draft misses, but they have still found their quality contributors. One player that a lot of Pittsburgh Steelers fans liked was Carl Lawson (I recall having mocked him to the Steelers in my mock that year).
In limited playing time as a rookie in 2017, Lawson, out of Auburn, racked up eight and a half sacks, which if memory serves was the most among rookies that year. He remained in a limited role last season, but managed only one sack before tearing his ACL in the middle of the year.
Still recovering from that injury, he recently appeared on NFL Network to talk about that and other things. He said that he has been training on the side throughout the summer, but that he was not going to push himself to be on the field for the Bengals in training camp.
“The goal is to be out there Week 1, and I’m feeling great”, he said. “Thankfully I can take care of my body, I’ve got a lot of different resources, I can fly to places, I can do everything underneath the sun because I have the money to do it. So, it’s been a great rehab process”.
This is the second ACL tear Lawson has suffered, having also gone through a similar incident, though on the opposite knee, in college. That is one of the reasons that he ended up slipping and being drafted as late as he was.
To date, he has only been used as a situational pass-rusher, that being under Hue Jackson and their previous defensive coordinators, who are no longer here. There is almost entirely a new coaching staff from the top to the bottom, and Lawson is hoping that they will see him as a player who can contribute more.
He was actually just one of several key injuries that the Bengals suffered last year, on both the defensive and offensive sides of the ball. They ended up with several Pro Bowlers on Injured Reserve by the end of the season. That said, in spite of the injury excuse from last year, expectations for the Bengals in 2019 remain fairly low, and they are consistently being picked to finish fourth in the AFC North again.