Carl Lawson looked poised to become a game-wrecking force after an 8.5 sack 2017 rookie performance. Then the Cincinnati Bengals edge rusher went down early in Week 8 last year with a torn right ACL.
Through seven full weeks of the 2018 campaign, Lawson generated just one sack, but provided consistent pressure off the Bengals' edge. His injury was a massive blow to Cincy's defense, and the product the Bengals deployed the rest of the season reflected his absence. The 24-year-old entered the NFL with health concerns after dealing with injuries during his stint at Auburn, including a left ACL tear.
Throughout offseason workouts this summer, Lawson rehabbed on the side and has insisted he isn't pushing to be ready for training camp unless he's 100 percent. On Monday, the defensive end told NFL Network's Good Morning Football he's eyeing Week 1.
"The goal is to be out there Week 1, and I'm feeling great," Lawson said. "Thankfully I can take care of my body, I've got a lot of different resources, I can fly to places, I can do everything underneath the sun because I have the money to do it. So, it's been a great rehab process."
Through one and a half seasons, Lawson displayed a nose for the quarterback, with the ability to use blazing speed on the edge and turn that speed into power when needed. The hope is that once he's healthy, the new regime in Cincinnati will utilize him as more than a rotational rusher as he grows.
The injury-ravaged Bengals saw key pieces go down last season, including Lawson, Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, Preston Brown and Tyler Eifert. Every team deals with injuries, but the Bengals seem to be especially snakebitten of late -- already watching first-round pick Jonah Williams go down this offseason with a shoulder injury.
"You can expect a lot, but at the same time, in this league, that's what separates different teams, being able to be healthy throughout the season," he said. "I think the main thing is being able to have that depth, and that carry over, so when things do happen. You know, because everybody's like 'Oh, well if we were healthy, if this or that, whatever' -- not that many injuries as we had last year -- but I think you can expect a lot from us."
With a new coach in Zac Taylor, the Bengals remain a mystery in the AFC North. A fully healthy Lawson to start the 2019 campaign would provide a massive boost to a defense that could offer an intriguing combination of rush and coverage ability if everyone can stay on the field.