The question of questions:
Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Paul Dawson, selected out of TCU in the third round of the 2015 NFL draft, is drawing comparisons with Vontaze Burfict -- the Bengals all-star linebacker. When asked about the comparison, Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther didn't necessarily agree; though styles were comparable.
"Vontaze came in here and he worked his butt off to get to where he is today," said Guenther who said that Dawson is versatile enough to play inside and outside linebacker. "Paul’s got a long way to go. Vontaze worked hard to get to where he is, and to come out from where he came from. So their play style is a lot alike, but if you go to that level right now, it’s a little early."
But, that's not where the comparison ends. Guenther sees the comparison in skillset and the slow process that identical scouting reports during the predraft process.
"He’s got to learn to be a pro," Guenther said. "He’s a really good player, given where we got him. He had 133 tackles (with) 22 tackles for a loss. For a linebacker. And it was his first full year starting. He doesn’t take any false steps. He’s a good, instinctive player. For instance, Vontaze was the slowest linebacker at the combine. Do you see his play slow on the field? No. That’s what this kid has."
Even if we ditch the comparisons, Guenther is excited about the prospects that Dawson brings to his defense. "One thing you can’t coach is he doesn’t take many false steps. He’s going to have to come in here, work his butt off, get into the locker room, do things the way we want them done. On tape, he was one of my favorite guys. I’m very particular about LBs and what I’m looking for, and he had a lot of traits that I like."
Dawson is viewed as a luxury who could end up being Cincinnati's biggest steal of the draft... and he's excited to join a credible defense with quality linebackers:
"I know the Bengals have a great defense," said Dawson Friday night. "I know the Bengals have a great offense, with
In the meantime, questions about Vontaze Burfict exist. Indications are that rehabilitation from microfracture surgery, designed to correct cartilage damage on the side of his knee, is on track. Linebackers coach Matt Burke and Guenther have reportedly visited with Burfict with favorable impressions.
Burfict suffered a knee injury against the Baltimore Ravens on Oct. 29 and underwent arthroscopic surgery soon after. When his knee wasn't responding to rehabilitation, he was placed on season-ending Injured Reserve on Dec. 9. The Pro Bowl linebacker contemplated surgery at the end of the season to repair what wasn't fixed in October and Marvin Lewis confirmed that he went ahead with the procedure... though it wasn't known how serious the procedure actually was.
"He has to work his tail off. He has to work harder now than he did to get here," Lewis said during the Senior Bowl. "Everyone in his inner circle has continued to reinforce that. He has to work harder now than he did to get here."
Burfict entered last season as the team's leading tackler in 2012 and 2013, where the totaled 204 stops, 94 more than the second-place finisher (Rey Maualuga). Burfict earned a roster spot on the Pro Bowl team and a second-team mention on the Associated Press All-Pro team during the 2013 season. The Bengals signed Burfict to a contract extension (four-year, $19 million with $6.9 million guaranteed) on Aug. 27, 2014 keeping him in Cincinnati through 2017.