Seasons like the Bengals had in 2019 are usually the prequel to a great comeback season for a player. However, 2019 was the stage for a few subtle comeback years for players who didn’t have the 2018 they thought they’d have.
Some of these players spent most of 2018 injured, fighting for jobs or just waiting to really breakout, but we saw at least a glimpse into the future in 2019. These guys didn’t blow the doors off the hinges, but they definitely improved from 2018.
Carl Lawson, edge rusher: If Lawson has a fully healthy 2020, he could very well be on this list again. Lawson spent most of 2018 struggling to get to the quarterback or injured. He piled up some hurries, but aside from that his Sophomore season was a lost one.
2019 was a slow start, and he struggled with injures again, missing four games. However, when he came back fully healthy after the Bengals’ bye week, we saw the Lawson we were use to seeing in 2017. Four of his five sacks came in that span. He also recorded at least one quarterback hit per game. His return also helped mark the turnaround of a defensive unit that was one of the worst in the NFL. Adding him into the mix with Carlos Dunlap and Sam Hubbard moving forward is a real bright spot for this team.
Trey Hopkins, center: Hopkins has cemented himself as this team’s center moving forward. During a season of constant shuffling, Hopkins remained one of the only foundation pieces on this offensive line. After spending 2018 as being a piece that was apart of the shuffling, Hopkins won the job at center and never relinquished it. He may not have looked like a Pro Bowler, but he only committed two penalties and only allowed four sacks on the year.
He was rewarded for his season by getting a three-year extension. Now it is just a matter of if he can now build off of his rock solid 2019 season.
Brandon Wilson, defensive back/returner: Wilson made a real case for himself as Cincinnati’s kick returner going forward, and he may have started carving out a role as the team’s third safety. However, what earned Wilson this nomination has to be his special teams work.
After returning only one kick prior to 2019, he led the NFL in average kick return yards with 31.3 yards per return. His most electric play was his 142 return yards against the Ravens in Week 6 where he took the opening kickoff to the house. It is safe to say we are seeing Wilson hit his prime as a player, and the only question is how much better can he get as this coaching staff keeps giving him more opportunities?
Who gets your vote for Comeback Player of the Year?
This poll is closed
Pass rusher, Carl Lawson
Center, Trey Hopkins
Safety/Returner, Brandon Wilson