Dec 22, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiverWes Welker
(83) makes a catch while being pushed out of bounds by Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (27) during the third quarter at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
When the Bengals face the Steelers tonight, there will undoubtedly reserves who’ll be called upon to play a significant role. This seems evident based on the Bengals final injury report heading into tonight’s matchup.
The offense wasn’t hit as hard this week. There’s six total players listed from the offense on the report yet only one, James Wright, is listed as “questionable” (everyone else is “probable”). The offense should look pretty typical this week with all the starters likely to play.
The defensive side of the ball is where the Bengals have been hit hardest. The secondary has taken the biggest hit. Cornerbacks Adam Jones and Terence Newman, are both listed as “questionable” after both contracted a virus that has infected the team recently. Jones had practiced all week until Friday when he did not practice due to illness. Newman did not practice at all this week. Typically this would mean he’s absolutely “out” for tonight’s game, but illness is different than injury; if in fact Newman is feeling better tonight, it’s entirely possible he plays. But regardless of game status, the Bengals will be forced to rely on their youthful cornerback duo of Dre Kirkpatrick and Darqueze Dennard this evening. Even if the veterans play, they likely won’t be at 100%, so asking them to play their usual snap count won’t be prudent.
Making matters worse for the secondary, safety stalwart Reggie Nelson has also been stricken with the virus this week and only managed to practice on a “limited” basis Friday. It’s likely that Nelson will be less fit this evening as well. If this proves to be true, the Bengals will likely turn to special teams extraordinaire Shawn Williams. Williams is largely unknown to casual fans, but this doesn’t mean he isn’t talented. Williams is an intelligent player who possesses great “in the box” skills and leadership qualities. He’s had nearly two full seasons now to work on his biggest weakness, coverage, so it’s entirely possible Williams to ready and able to play extra snaps tonight.
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Finally, coverage linebacker Emmanuel Lamur is listed as “questionable” this week after practicing the entirety of the week on a limited basis. Lamur is struggling with an actual injury (hamstring), which kept him out of last week’s game against the Broncos. If Lamur misses today’s game (or is limited), the Bengals will again turn to Taylor Mays to fill in the gap during nickel situations. Last week, Mays plays on 26 of 70 defensive snaps. He helped the Bengals keep Broncos tight end Julius Thomas from making any real impact on the game and especially in the red zone where he’s is most effective.
The status of these players won’t be known until just before game time tonight (when the team releases its “inactives” list). Whether or not these veterans and typical starters suit up, the Bengals chances of winning tonight’s game may lie on the ability of their depth; something that the Bengals have been known for these past few years. Tonight, the team will have an opportunity to lean on this depth in the most critical of moments. It’s going to give several players the opportunity to make a case for more playing time while a win could give the Bengals a boost of confidence heading into the playoffs.