As good as the Bengals defense was in 2013, they could be even better this season with the addition of several key players whose seasons were cut short 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 season.
But a torn shoulder labrum in the final preseason game cost him the entire 2013 season. He returned to run with the first-team defense in OTAs, and Geoff Hobson says coaches were raving about how he looked.
As far as a guy who wasn’t around last year making a big impact, it’s got to be Lamur at SAM backer. He suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the preseason finale and since he’s been back, teammates and coaches have just been raving about him. He keeps getting bigger (6-4, 243) and faster. He can be the Carlos Dunlap of the linebackers when it comes to making athletic, game-busting plays.
Lamur's return next year will be key to the Bengals defense remaining elite, and possibly keying another playoff season. He has only one start in his career, which just happened to be the Wild Card Game of the 2012 season.
That game saw him not allow a reception in 32 snaps while helping Cincinnati limit Houston to just 19 points. Lamur isn't going to make an impact every week, but he'll be critical against teams with multiple tight ends and backs who can catch out of the backfield.