The Cincinnati Bengals are hoping that one of the biggest additions they can make to their roster this year is a healthy and motivated Carl Lawson, who flashed as a situational pass-rusher as a rookie fourth-round pick in 2017, but who only recorded one sack in seven games before suffering a severe ACL injury last season.
The Bengals had one of the worst defenses in the league last season, though they also had a lot of injuries, particularly at the linebacker position, that had to do with their struggles. But suffice it to say that outside of Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap, they didn’t have a lot of personnel who were having success getting after the quarterback.
Then-rookie Sam Hubbard did well. Now they want to add Lawson back into the mix, who believes that he will come back this season better than he has ever been before, not just from a mental standpoint, but physically as well.
“I’m not 100 percent sure, but each step I’ve checked”, he said of his progress. “I’ve re-evaluated the game. I’ve trained. I took it to practice. It worked. Now we’ll see how it goes in the game and in the season. I really can’t tell you what my goals are or any of that stuff. But all I know is I do feel like I’m better than last year”.
While he only recorded one sack last season, Lawson feels that it’s not because he was not winning his one-on-one matchups. It was because he wasn’t winning fast enough. “Now I feel like I’m winning faster. I feel like I’m half a second faster”, he said. “That’s the thing between a sack and a pressure”.
Lawson should make his preseason debut in the Bengals’ next game after sitting out the first two as he basically puts the finishing touches on a long and grueling rehab from knee surgery. Nobody in the organization really talks about how bad the original injury was, which indicates that it wasn’t entirely run of the mill as far as ACL tears go.
But he has tried to make the best of the entire situation. The injury, and the seven games in which he did play last season, gave him the opportunity to re-evaluate his game on every level, and he used that time off to do just that.
And all he keeps saying is that he’s “interested” to see how it all translates once he is going up against outside opponents inside of a stadium. He has spent time dominating his offensive line teammates over the past several weeks, but he, and the team, won’t know for sure where he is, from a health and productivity standpoint, until he’s actually bringing quarterbacks to the ground.