Biggest problem for Bengals' O-line? Rookie LB Carl Lawson breaking out

CINCINNATI -- There's a question that always presents itself during the dog days of training camp.

If a player is standing out, is he standing out because of his talent, or because he's playing against inferior talent?

In the case of Cincinnati Bengals rookie defender Carl Lawson, it might be a little bit of both.

For five straight plays, Lawson essentially terrorized quarterbacks AJ McCarron and Jeff Driskel. The sequence went as follows:

  • McCarron fires a touchdown to Alonzo Russell, but it was questionable whether it actually counted. Because the quarterbacks are not allowed to be hit in practice, it can be a judgement call as to whether they were sacked prior to getting off the pass. Lawson beat left tackle Eric Winston and was barreling toward McCarron on the play.

  • McCarron attempts another pass, but Lawson and Carlos Dunlap were in his face. Sack.

  • Lawson easily shakes off Winston again to get to McCarron. Winston slams his helmet in frustration.

  • On the next play, against the third-team offense, Lawson beats Landon Lechler to sack Driskel.

  • Lawson bull-rushes Lechler again.

Lawson later got a few snaps against the first-team offense. He wasn't quite as dominant, as Cedric Ogbuehi and tight end Tyler Eifert did their jobs when lined up against him. But he was still giving Ogbuehi all he could handle.

Lawson played his best when lined up at defensive end on Tuesday, which comes at no surprise. He spent his entire career at Auburn at defensive end and is learning how to be a linebacker in the NFL.

Later in practice, during another sequence of team drills against the first-team offense, Lawson was put at outside linebacker. Rookie running back Joe Mixon came around to Lawson's side, and Lawson fell on the turf while trying to run him down. Mixon kept running for what probably would have been a touchdown if it were a full-contact drill.

Mixon was obviously pretty pleased with himself after the play, as he essentially took a victory lap. Mixon jogged toward the fans and gave them high-fives, yelling, "Too easy! Too easy!" His victory lap abruptly ended when a coach barked that he needed to get back to the sidelines so they could run the next play.

Of course, the true test for both players will come Friday in their first preseason game against the Buccaneers. Lining up against their teammates is one thing, but lining up against a new opponent is another. So far, they've both looked the part.

Top plays of the day: A play-action pass from Andy Dalton to Alex Erickson ended in a touchdown of about 20 yards. ... Mixon took a handoff and went up the middle for about a 10-yard gain. ... Linebacker Jordan Evans was no match for Eifert, who caught a pass in the end zone for a touchdown. ... Defensive end Jordan Willis slipped on the next play trying to get to Dalton on another pass to Eifert. ... Eifert later caught a touchdown pass over linebacker Nick Vigil during red-zone work. ... Vontaze Burfict blitzed and had a sack.

"Not" plays of the day: Jake Fisher was beat badly by defensive lineman Ryan Brown on one play ... On another, defensive back Josh Shaw ended up on the ground and almost got his feet tangled with A.J. Green. ... Mixon was blown back for a loss on one play by DB Shawn Williams. ... Tackle play was poor in general with Winston and Lechler having mediocre days. ... There was a fumbled handoff from McCarron to Mixon, which was recovered by defensive lineman Chris Smith.

O-line greats return: The Bengals had two of their former greats at practice on Tuesday. Hall of Famer Anthony Munoz and Willie Anderson both worked with the offensive line, and Munoz spent several minutes after practice addressing the unit. ... Special-teams coordinator Darrin Simmons ran the team with coach Marvin Lewis taking the day off for health reasons.

Injury report: Tight end C.J. Uzomah sprained his ankle after getting tangled up with another player on a play in Monday's practice and was in a walking boot on Tuesday. ... Andre Smith, Cedric Peerman, George Iloka, Jake Kumerow and Brandon Wilson did not practice. Willis and J.J. Dielman returned to practice after missing Monday.

Kicking update: Jake Elliott and Randy Bullock made all of their field goals on Tuesday at distances of 38, 49, 43, and 45 yards.