Every so often, an NFL player comes around that sparks interest and becomes a fan base's "Flavor of the Week". It would be safe to say that Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Emmanuel Lamur has been Who Dey Nation's "Flavor of the Past Two and a Half Years".
The intrigue surrounding the third-year player started blossoming around November of the 2012 season when he finally began to see some game action. It wasn't the easiest path to playing in an NFL game for Lamur, who was waived earlier in the year after seeing himself go undrafted. He landed on the practice squad at the beginning of that 2012 season, paid his dues and then contributed in nine games as a rookie.
Very brief flashes of brilliance occurred with Lamur, as the long and lean youngster from Kansas State showed the ability to run with tight ends and other slot players. In case you're new around these parts, those were the types of opposing offensive weapons that have killed the Bengals over the years. Word began spreading that the staff was going to entrust Lamur with a bigger role in 2013.
Unfortunately, fate has a funny way of intervening sometimes. Lamur was receiving rave reviews last offseason and looked to be a tuitional staple in the linebacker core. However, an unfortunate shoulder injury suffered in a preseason game last year ended Lamur's campaign prematurely and we were all left to wonder what could have been.
Lamur's 2014 Early Outlook:
With James Harrison leaving after only one semi-disappointing season in Cincinnati, it paves way for the athletic Lamur to take over at the strong side as the starter. So far, the increased role seems to have been successful, as the coaching staff has been raving about his performances in offseason sessions thus far. There is still a long way to go with Training Camp and the regular season ahead, but things look cautiously optimistic at this point.
When he came into the league, Lamur was thought of as a niche nickel linebacker on the weak side, mostly tasked with what I mentioned earlier--covering tight ends, backs and slot guys. Though a lot of that had to do with his speed and fluidity in pass coverage, it also had to do with his slight build. In college, Lamur's playing weight was in the 220-225 pound range. This year, Lamur is up to the 240-245 range and most reports say that he hasn't lost any of that speed. Bingo.
Oh, The Possibilities:
It's hard to be so high on a player that has only nine games played with 19 tackles and a pass defensed in two accrued seasons, but the ceiling seems high for yet another undrafted Bengals linebacker. He makes this list because of potential and the fact that he is slated for the starting SAM spot after being a former backup.
The hope is that the Bengals have found this decade's version of Brian Simmons: a versatile, athletic linebacker able to play fundamentally-sound football. With the team looking for an answer at the position since they moved Rey Maualuga to the middle from the outside, Lamur could be a solid long-term answer. If he proves to be so, this already-stout defense just got a heck of a lot better.
That is why Lamur isn't higher on this list, though: the "if". Can he stay healthy? Are the words from coaches nothing more than just a lot of fluff to build up a young player's confidence as he steps into a starting gig? Only time will tell.