As good as the Bengals defense was in 2013, they'll be even better in 2014 with the addition of several key players whom missed most of, if not all of last year.
Emmanuel Lamur was projected as a starting linebacker in nickel defense packages, as he was the team's best coverage linebacker and was in for a big season after a promising rookie campaign.
But a torn shoulder labrum in the final game of the preseason of '13 cost him the entire season. Last year, Lamur would have often replaced Rey Maualuga on passing downs, who was repeatedly beaten anytime he was thrown at.
When the Bengals took the field on Tuesday, it was the first time in nearly nine months that Lamur had participated in 11-on-11 football drills after suffering his shoulder injury.
"Oh man, it feels really good to be back," said Lamur, via Bengals.com. "It’s a blessing to be back with the guys. The injury opened my eyes in a way. I’m enjoying every rep and having fun. Last year the game was taken away from me just like that."
His teammates were happy to have him back too.
"This is a chance for him to come back and get his feet wet and get back into the groove of things," said Rey Maualuga. "He looks great. He’s a great coverage player and a great all-around athlete."
"E-Man has it athletically," said Vinny Rey. "But the coolest thing about E-Man isn't his athletic ability. It's his desire to get better every day. That's the coolest thing about him. He's always asking me, sometimes, it's like, 'OK stop asking me.' He's always asking me, 'Vinny, what can I do better? What did you see that I didn't do out there.' It's awesome."
New defensive coordinator Paul Guenther knows what he has in Lamur, and that's he's already running with the first-team defense
"He was the starter there really at the end of his rookie year (2012)," said Guenther. "He played a lot in his last five or six games and obviously he started the playoff game (at Houston). Right now he’s running with the ‘ones’ and if he continues to improve, I don’t see much of a change there."
Lamur's return next year will be key to the Bengals defense remaining among the league's best.