The Cincinnati Bengals have one of the weakest linebacker groups in the NFL, according to a survey by NFL.com; they are doing a series of "best of" and "worst of" position groups this week and list the New York Giants as the weakest linebacker group in the NFL. I'm sure there's a Keith Rivers giggle somewhere.
Linebackers Emmanuel Lamur and Rey Maualuga are projected as the team's strongside and inside linebackers, with an open question at WILL. Pro Bowler Vontaze Burfict is rehabilitating from microfracture surgery and, despite the organization's hope to the contrary, could open the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list -- meaning he'll be ineligible to play during the season's first six games.
"The Bengals' linebacker corps isn't the same without Vontaze Burfict, a candidate to start the season on the PUP list," writes Chris Wesseling... and I'm not sure that I disagree (at least in early June).
A.J. Hawk was signed as a free agent in March, allowing the team flexibility with his versatility. Hawk could start for Burfict at WILL, but is capable of moving around. Cincinnati selected TCU linebacker PJ Dawson in the third round, giving the Bengals insurance while hoping for the best with recent draft picks like Sean Porter (currently rehabilitating) and Marquis Flowers. And let's not forget Vincent Rey, who has been more than serviceable while stepping into roles.
However, Burfict is the domino that will set into motion the movement for the team's roster. Cincinnati is hopeful that he'll be ready for training camp -- though common sense requires the more conservative expectation that he'll require significant rehabilitation and conditioning this summer.