Early during training camp in 2012, this undrafted linebacker was slowly becoming the apple to Marvin Lewis' eye. Physically gifted with a body that's not unlike an undersized Brian Urlacher or an oversized Kam Chancellor, this rookie had enough talent to play linebacker and double as a safety in spot duty. One had to wonder if Cincinnati's walkabout to find their coverage linebacker had finally concluded.
If Vontaze Burfict is Marvin Lewis' next incarnation of Rey Lewis, then linebacker Emmanuel Lamur supplements the relatively few weaknesses in Burfict's tank-sized armor. Cincinnati's coaching staff, specifically Lewis and former defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer transformed the red flags that plagued everyone's perception about Burfict (most of it earned) into a passionate leader that players now follow. In the meantime, Lamur, who was signed 12 days after Burfict following the 2012 NFL draft, was praised from the moment he joined the team.
Lamur is much better than you think
While doing some film review on other subjects, we wanted to make sure that you know exactly what the Bengals have in the other undrafted free agent linebacker from 2012.
"He's what they're supposed to look like," Lewis said of Lamur during the first week of training camp in 2012. "He's doing a good job on the field mentally. That's what you like about him. Linebackers that develop in the NFL have that kind of stature. They can turn into that 6-3, 250-pound guy that can really run. He can run and understand ... he's a great prospect."
Unfortunately, numbers and Burfict's understandable rise to stardom, held Lamur off the team's 53-man roster when Cincinnati opened in Baltimore that year. It was a momentary set-back. A few months on the team's practice squad eventually gave way to Lamur's eventual promotion to varsity. Despite only playing nine games that season, he finished fifth on the team in special teams tackles (again, in only half a season).
Expected to be a significant role player as the team's hybrid roamer, doubling as a defensive back/linebacker, Lamur suffered a season-ending shoulder injury during the final preseason game in '13. The Indianapolis Colts conceded the possession, calling Donald Brown on third-and-11, picking up two yards. Everyone celebrated holding the Colts to a fourth down, forcing Indianapolis to punt with 5:26 remaining in the first quarter.
Lamur took his time standing up but then the training staff jogged onto the field and Lamur dropped again. Lamur awkwardly tackled Brown, hearing a pop as he landed on the surface. The cart rolled onto the field to picked up Lamur, who was visibly upset.
This hasn't stopped the growing expectations coming out of Cincinnati's locker room. Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther still envisions a coverage defense with Burfict and Lamur pairing up during passing downs.
"He’s got good ball awareness in zone and he’s a good man-to-man guy," Guenther says of Lamur via Bengals.com. "He’s a guy you like to go to with everyone playing two tight ends. He’s tall and he can run with those guys and you don’t get caught in a mismatch. He can help you in a lot of different ways. He’s smart. He knows the defense and the techniques."
According to Bengals.com, Lamur will be "cleared in time for the April 21 start of offseason workouts". In addition to proving that he's ready to return, a significant chip is weighing down Lamur's rehabilitated shoulder.
"I want to prove I can play this game each and every down and also be a special-teamer at the same time," Lamur says. "I want to be different. I want to break that trend that says you can’t play special teams and play every down."
That's the thing about Lamur. If he's ready to go then Taylor Mays, who replaced Lamur during the regular season last year, is expendable. This only continues a year-long pattern of next-man-up. It was Mays that admirably stepped up for Lamur. Now the latter will do again for the former, who will hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent.