Middle linebacker Rey Maualuga suffered a MCL sprain and concussion from a head-on collision during the win against the Jets that forced him to be carted from the field. The good news about the injury is that its severity is most likely limited, meaning that Maualuga could be ready for action as early as Week 10 against division rival Baltimore Ravens. Maualuga's loss is the short term is compounded by the loss of additional linebacker depth also suffered last week against the Jets.
Linebacker/safety hybrid Taylor Mays finally seemed to have found a place on the field for the Cincinnati Bengals that allowed him to maximize his unquestioned athletic ability, but that came to an abrupt end with Mays' designation to injured reserve due to a shoulder injury.
Mays had converted quite well to nickel linebacker paired with Vontaze Burfict during passing downs. Mays had replaced Emmanuel Lemur, who was lost in the preseason, and now will have to be replaced by either plugging middle backers Vincent Rey or J.K. Schaffer into the nickel defense Thursday night unless injured street free agent Michael Boley recuperates enough from a hamstring injury to play against the Dolphins.
Boley is the longer term replacement for Mays, but his hamstring injury could force him out of action against the Dolphins. Boley showed he is a capable season replacement for Mays after playing in the second half against the Jets. The injury sustained by Boley is enough of a flag that the Bengals may have to explore other solutions at some point, like converting strong safety George Iloka to nickel LB or developing strongside backer Jayson DiManche into a better pass defender so he too can see some snaps in the nickel along with Burfict.
It's not often fans of a team can say the drop between a Pro Bowl left tackle and his backup is not a cause for alarm. Such is the case with the Bengals. Pro Bowl left tackle Andrew Whitworth is unquestionably a force of nature, but his backup Anthony Collins is an outstanding left tackle in his own right, especially in pass protection.
The Bengals should survive the loss of Whitworth for one game, and if there's any doubt about his health during the short week, he should be inactive for this one so he can be ready for Week 10 against the Ravens.
Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu is questionable for Week 9 against the Dolphins due to a shoulder injury. The Bengals can survive the loss of Sanu for a game, but his versatility both short and long and ability to run after the catch will be needed during the second half of the season if teams go overboard on coverage of both WRs A.J. Green and Marvin Jones.
In the short term the Bengals can employ slot receiver Dane Sanzenbacher or activate injured slot receiver Andrew Hawkins, who caught 51 passes last year. The Bengals also benefit from the versatility of rookie tight end Tyler Eifert and rookie running back Gio Bernard, who can both split wide or line up in the slot.
Robb Hoff has worked as a freelance researcher for ESPN's production and news departments for more than five years. He posts his NFL draft predictions each year at footballnostradamus.com.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Cincinnati Bengals
- Rey Maualuga
- Taylor Mays
- Michael Boley
- Miami Dolphins