Heartbreak. That's what Bengals fans were feeling when they saw undrafted rookie Larry Black go down with an injury on "Hard Knocks" last year. It's also how the young man out of the University of Indiana's season ended. Black's ankle broke, but his will to compete the very next year did not.
Black was actually turning some heads early at camp, even amidst heavy competition at the defensive tackle position. Almost everyone knew that he was a long-shot behind two recent high draft picks (Devon Still and Brandon Thompson) and two other entrenched starters in Domata Peko and Geno Atkins.
As a senior, Black had 36 total tackles (12 for loss), four sacks on a team that only went 4-8 in 2012. Still, Black was a standout player on their defense. Though he wasn't highly-touted in the draft, the Bengals did like what they saw out of him before the injury.
How he makes the final 53-man roster: With the enormous depth at the position and Geno Atkins returning from his own season-ending injury sooner than most expected, it looks like an uphill climb for Black. Still, if other injuries occur (God forbid), Black could sneak his way on somehow, even if it's just for a handful of games. The scenario surrounding wide receiver Marvin Jones and his broken foot could open up opportunities for players like Black. He only had one tackle in the team's preseason opener against Kansas City though.
How we see it playing out: Black will probably be vying for a Practice Squad spot this year. If he continues to progress, he could find a niche when Peko begins to look at the end of his career in the next season or two. There is just too much talent at the defensive tackle position in front of him at this point. It's tough to say it because he is an easy guy to root for, given what happened to him last year.
Strengths: High-motor player and a coach's dream to have on a squad. Eats space well and doesn't easily get manhandled at the point of attack. Has the ability to make plays behind the line of scrimmage relatively often, be it sacks or against the run.
Weaknesses: Plays upright at times and doesn't move well laterally. More of a quick first burst, straight up-field kind of player.