While the Cincinnati Bengals were able to right the ship yesterday by pulling off an overtime victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to end a two-game losing skid for their fifth win in eight games, they have had about the worst luck in football so far this year when it comes to injuries, and it just got a fair bit worse.
Second-year pass rusher Carl Lawson, a fourth-round pick a year ago that I saw as a second-rounder, suffered a torn ACL in the game. Lawson had only registered one sack on the season so far in relatively limited playing time as a rotational piece, but he showed his capabilities already a year ago when he led all rookies with eight sacks.
If there is anything positive to take away from this, it is that the Bengals have still been able to get after the passer, and they put up six sacks yesterday, including two by second-year Jordan Evans. Rookie Sam Hubbard also added a sack and Michael Johnson split a sack with Evans, while Carlos Dunlap had two, and Adolphus Washington one.
That’s not all, though. Cincinnati is the walking wounded of late. Dre Kirkpatrick was injured in the game though he did finish it. If you look at their inactive list for the game, however, it was all accounted for by injuries to meaningful players: Vontaze Burfict, Giovani Bernard, Darqueze Dennard, Tyler Kroft, John Ross, Nick Vigil, and Billy Price. All except Bernard are starters.
Speaking of tight ends, the Bengals already lost Tyler Eifert for the season with a significant ankle injury. It’s not clear when or if Kroft will be able to return this season. The remaining player of the three primary tight ends, C.J. Uzomah even left the game for a while, but returned.
Cincinnati was able to jump out in front of the Buccaneers yesterday and was helped by Jameis Winston, who threw four interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown, before he was benched in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick. But Fitzpatrick then tied the game and forced overtime, the Bengals only winning on a last-second field goal.
Given the injuries that the team has sustained over the past three weeks—six of the seven players who ended up on the inactive list yesterday ended last week’s schedule of practices as non-participants and were ruled out, the exception being the rookie Price, who was limited—it’s not hard to imagine that they will run into issues.
The Bengals are thin at tight end and linebacker, and the secondary is nursing some injuries as well. Their numbers are thinning and their depth will be tested, which will make it a struggle to stay on top of their opponents. While they have a bye week next, they come out of it to host the New Orleans Saints, and then have to go into Baltimore.