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Emmanuel Lamur: Football Outsiders Top-25 Breakout Prospect

"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."

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

When the Cincinnati lost linebacker Emmanuel Lamur to a season-ending shoulder injury last year, the Bengals were forced to improvise. Defensive coordinator (and linebackers coach last year) Paul Guenther, who claims (jokingly) that he almost fainted when it happened, needed to find a replacement. After all, Lamur's injury happened in the final preseason game, days before the regular season was scheduled to start. Unfortunately, Lamur isn't your typical linebacker with typical linebacker attributes. Some compare his athleticism to that of a defensive back, though in a linebacker's body. Guenther looked to the secondary and tabbed Taylor Mays, who capability filled in.

Now Lamur is back and playing with the first team defense... and everyone is excited.

"Oh man, it feels really good to be back," said Lamur in May. "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."

"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."

Despite coming into the league with Vontaze Burfict in 2012, Lamur figures to be the next major undrafted free agent linebacker, joining Burfict and Vincent Rey -- both of whom have become reliable, if not significant, contributors in the past two years.

Aaron Schatz with Football Outsiders (via ESPN In$ider), names Lamur as one of 25 possible breakout prospects this year.

Lamur was on our list last year after his strong rookie season in 2012. We praised him for his steady performance on special teams, his tackling in the open field, and his excellent pass-coverage skills (he was a safety at Kansas State). Then he went and separated his shoulder in the fourth preseason game, ending his 2013 season. One year later, there's been even more excitement about Lamur coming out of Bengals OTAs, as he's put on extra muscle to improve his run-stopping abilities at linebacker. He's going to be the starting strongside linebacker and should play all three downs alongside Vontaze Burfict, who was also an undrafted free agent.

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.

"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."