Bengals News

Three Defensive Moves Bengals Must Make During Training Camp

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Oct 26, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals outside linebacker Vontaze Burfict (55) against the Baltimore Ravens at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals won 27-24. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Start Paul Dawson

Vontaze Burfict has meant so much to the Bengals’ defense since he took over as the team’s starter in 2013 following an injury to the late Thomas Howard.  Burfict’s intensity offers the defense the kind of inspiration and attitude it needs while his instinctual nature and high football I.Q. makes him an extremely effective playmaker in the middle of the field.

Burfict’s success could also be attributed to Cincinnati’s ability to best utilize his skill set.  The Bengals favor a four-man front.  In past years, when all four players were playing at a high level, opposing offenses needed every bit of their five linemen to stop the Bengals’ four.  This kept linebackers “clean” and allowed them to roam and make plays (this strategy also highlights the need for a more effective nose tackle). This is a role perfectly suited for Vontaze Burfict’s skill set and really any instinctual, intense, high I.Q. player.

Dec 31, 2014; Atlanta , GA, USA; TCU Horned Frogs linebacker Paul Dawson (47) reacts after sacking Mississippi Rebels quarterback Bo Wallace (not pictured) during the second quarter in the 2014 Peach Bowl at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

It just so happens that the Bengals drafted “Tez II” (courtesy of editor Geoff Hobson) during this year’s draft.  Former Horned Frog linebacker Paul Dawson is cut from the same cloth as Burfict.  Dawson plays the game with a similar ferocity and confidence to that of his new linebacker counterpart.  Dawson also possesses the requisite I.Q., which enhances his instinctual nature for making plays all over the field.

Cincinnati would do well to push Paul Dawson into a starting role early and often, and especially if Burfict starts the year on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list to start 2015.  Alongside Burfict, Dawson would form a dynamic, playmaking duo in the middle of the field.  Both players may lack combine athleticism, but their ability to read and identify plays quickly helps them make up for any athletic concerns one may have.

Without Burfict, Dawson would be faced with a tall task of replacing one of the NFL’s best linebackers, but would have some veterans to lean on during this process.  Dawson would help ameliorate Burfict’s loss by offering the defense the same knowledge and intensity Burfict brings, which proved to be a vital loss last season.

Marvin Lewis and the Bengals typically prefer to employ veterans in the starting lineups.  Although I like the addition of a player like A.J. Hawk and the diversity of the Bengals’ other veteran linebackers, it’s time for the team to take a bit of a leap of faith and start a rookie.  Dawson is the future while these other players aren’t necessarily that.  He is a potential three-down linebacker while the others are more of situational players.  A starting group including Dawson and Burfict could be a devastating force.

Next: Securing the Secondary