Paul Dawson: A Scouting Report on Bengals’ New Linebacker


Oct 25, 2014; Fort Worth, TX, USA; TCU Horned Frogs linebacker Paul Dawson (47) and defensive tackle Chucky Hunter (96) during the game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals had question marks regarding their linebacking corp. Regardless of the reasoning, the Bengals selected Paul Dawson at the end of the third round in this year’s draft. There was hype around him being a potential first round selection until he disappointed at the combine. Paul Dawson wasn’t concerned about his combine performance.  He dismissed it on the premise that he dominated on the filed and isn’t a “track star.”  After watching Dawson on tape, he may have a point.  Here’s a look at Dawson on the field versus when testing.


Quite possibly the most instinctive linebacker in this draft. He has great ability to read where the play is going and attack it. Aggressive and a hard-hitter. Dawson plays downhill and has a great lower-body build that allows him to remain agile and on his feet.

Possesses lateral agility and can change direction smoothly, showing his ability to quickly unlock his hips in coverage. Doesn’t have the perfect tackling form, but he keeps his eye on the football and almost always tries to pry the ball out while bringing the ball carrier down. He is able to slip through blocks and chase down ball carriers. Offers a non-stop motor.

He has a knack for making huge, clutch plays and is always around the ball. Uses his arms to keep blockers from engaging him while using his speed to slip pass them. He is great in short zone coverage, and reads the quarterback very well enabling him to sniff out screen passes. He uses his great acceleration to effectly fool the quarterback and linemen when blitzing.


Dawson is a bit under-sized. He relies mainly on speed rather than strength. Needs to improve overall strength, as he has a hard time getting away from engaged blockers. Thus, he must work on shedding blockers.

The deeper he goes in pass coverage, the more he struggles; better fit to play in short coverage so he can read the quarterback. Needs more experience in pass coverage.

May 26, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals linebacker P.J. Dawson (47) runs drills during OTAs at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Doesn’t always wrap up the opponent. At times plays too aggressive and, because of this, misses assignments. Doesn’t possesses the strength to push blockers into the backfield. Biggest issue is he will need to add overall strength as speed won’t allow him to be effective consistently.


An extremely instinctive player and one of the best run stoppers to come out of this draft class. He has the instincts and aggressiveness defensive coordinators dream of in a linebacker. Before the draft, it was suggested that Dawson “doesn’t watch game film”, however, while watching the tape, it’s hard to believe so as he reads players extremely well and seems to know their tendencies. Dawson is a better fit for a 4-3 defense and he landed in a great spot with the Bengals. Dawson’s tape is one of the best out there, there’s no doubt about it.

There are character concerns, but Marvin Lewis has done an extremely good job with such players. Dawson is very similar to Vontaze Burfict, and neither has reached anywhere near their full potential yet.

If Paul Dawson increases his overall strength, he could be one of the Bengals’ biggest steals. He has All-Pro potential written all over him. It’s up to the coaches to foster him; this will be the difference for Dawson.

Next: Bengals Must Earn These Five Wins in 2014