The Cincinnati Bengals are floundering right now after dropping to a 5-5 record on the season and currently out of the postseason based on current seeding. They have lost four out of five beginning with the Pittsburgh Steelers coming back to beat them in the last minute.
And they just put another starter on injured reserve, in this case Preston Brown, who led the league in tackles last season while a member of the Buffalo Bills. Brown suffered a knee injury in the team’s last game, but he has been banged up since the season opener with an ankle issue.
He is just the latest blow to the linebacker position, which has hit every starter. Nick Vigil has been out since that Steelers game, suffering an MCL injury, and as of yesterday, he has still not returned to practice. Vontaze Burfict went down with a shoulder injury against the Steelers and only returned last week, though he was still slowed by the injury in that game.
Meanwhile, wide receiver A.J. Green still hasn’t practiced—yet. But Head Coach Marvin Lewis said that he expects the Pro Bowler to return to practice at some point this week and could potentially play after missing the past two games, both of which the Bengals have lost.
They certainly cannot afford to freefall any more than they already have, and surprising as it may sound, they have a big divisional game coming up against the Cleveland Browns, who are not apparently only a mediocre team, or at least aspiring to that level.
Over the first eight games of the 2018 season, Green was off to one of his best starts. He had already hauled in 45 passes for 687 receiving yards with six touchdowns, which had him on pace to set new career-highs in receiving yardage and touchdowns.
The Bengals are currently sitting the midst of a four-way tie for the sixth seed in the AFC playoff picture along with the Baltimore Ravens, the Indianapolis Colts, and the Miami Dolphins. Within that group, the Colts would figure to be the favorite as a team on the rise, winners of their past four games. They have a key game against the Dolphins up next.
Losing yet another defensive player isn’t going to help matters, but they seem to like what young Hardy Nickerson has been doing after being given playing time recently due to injuries in front of him. He has started three games so far this season, compiling 38 tackles and a pass defensed.
The defense also got back Darqueze Dennard, who was yet another player who suffered an injury against the Steelers. The absence of their starting nickel defender had certainly been an issue, and a big factor in their giving up 500 or more yards in three consecutive weeks.
Perhaps if Green returns, the offense can actually have a shot of matching that type of output.