When creating a makeshift 53-man roster prediction, we're comfortable with adding P.J. Dawson into the list with names like Rey Maualuga, Emmanuel Lamur and Vincent Rey. Even when Vontaze Burfict returns, hopefully by the third week of the preseason, it won't change anything. Dawson, who trusts his instincts with a down-hill mentality, came to Cincinnati as a boisterous personality brimming with confidence.
"Man, it's steadily hitting me even more just to treat everybody equal," Dawson said via ESPN. "I've tried to humble myself as much as I can and just stay quiet and learn as much as I can from the other guys."
As a rookie completely integrated into a familiar system and mentored by players like Vincent Rey, Dawson has utilized Cincinnati's school of veteran linebackers to help guide him.
"They help me with anything that I need and I appreciate that," said Dawson via Bengals.com. "I feel like I'm going to do the same thing for the next group of rookies coming in. I'm also spending a lot of time with the coaches before and after practice trying to get every little extra thing that I can so that I can be ready."
Dawson, who arrives to Paul Brown Stadium every morning at 7 a.m. and leaves around 10 p.m., has primarily worked as a weakside linebacker with the second and third team units and figures to easily make the 53-man roster. Based on how things are shaping up, Maualuga will start at middle linebacker, flanked by Lamur at SAM and A.J. Hawk at WILL (if Burfict is healthy, then he'll be on the weakside and Hawk will be the primary backup across the board).
He's still a rookie, making mistakes and believing that his talent is enough to carry him, as linebackers coach Matt Burke points out. "It's the normal learning curve for all rookies. He has to learn the details and make sure he's on the same page with what we're trying to get accomplished. Right now he might be doing his own thing when he goes and makes a play."
Either way, people looking for growth in Dawson are seeing it.
"I think, in that fashion, P.J. has listened and heard well. I think I'd probably give him a star for understanding that it's not about him anymore, it's about the football team, and generally that guy with the other colored jersey (offensive players) should never touch the ground," head coach Marvin Lewis said during Thursday's press conference.