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Bengals roster breakdown, 90-in-90: Carl Lawson brings excitement

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The fourth-round pick could be just what the doctor ordered for the Bengals’ struggling pass rush, and that’s something to get excited about. Only injuries can stop him from reaching his ceiling.

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

If the addition of Joe Mixon revived the offense in many Cincinnati Bengals fans’ minds, selecting Carl Lawson in the fourth-round of the recent draft got everybody salivating about his possibilities on a defense that desperately needed fresh blood.

The Bengals are trying to get him playing time at SAM, but Lawson is a pass rush first and a pretty good one. He can be a key player for his team on his rookie season already, and only injuries can stop him from becoming a steady contributor for Paul Guenther.

Carl Lawson

Position: OLB/DE

Height: 6’2”

Weight: 260 pounds

College: Auburn

Hometown: Alpharetta, Georgia

Experience: First-year player

Draft status: 4th-round pick, 116th overall in 2017

Cap status

The Georgia native signed a four-year contract worth $3,052,620 with a signing bonus of $652,620. That is also the only guaranteed amount on his deal, according to Over the Cap.

Background

The Bengals went into the draft fully aware that one of the team’s most pressing needs was to get speed to improve the struggling pass rush. The Bengals addressed it by selecting Jordan Willis in the third round, but when Lawson fell all the way to the fourth, the team couldn’t help but add another player at the position with back-to-back picks.

The 22-year old produced 9.5 sacks and 14 tackles for a loss for Auburn in his final college season and appeared to be one of the premier pass rushers in his class, but concerns after he tore his left ACL in 2014 were too much for many teams. Lawson also injured his hip the following year, missing half of the season. Most scouts thought he never looked the same after those two injury-ridden campaigns, but the Bengals and their fans were extremely hyped about his selection.

Lawson is explosive and strong, and his speed-to-power bursts are his identity moves. With Cincinnati reluctant to part ways with Michael Johnson the coaching staff said he’d play primarily as the strong side linebacker, but his talents are just too good to keep him away from the line of scrimmage for too long.

The former Tiger has been one of the emerging stars in training camp and was also making plays in the first game of preseason, but missed the second preseason contest with a shoulder injury. It isn’t thought to be serious and he should be back soon.

Roster chances

Lawson is a roster lock. The only question here is for how long the Bengals keep him at linebacker, despite his reported smooth transition. Lawson is a pure pass rusher and his best place is turning the corner and getting to the quarterback.

Roster odds: 100 percent.