In a troubling, if not unexpected, development, the Bengals will dress just three true cornerbacks for today’s game in Jacksonville. Down are starters Leon Hall and Nate Clements, along with back-up Jason Allen and first round pick Dre Kirkpatrick. Kirkpatrick hasn’t seen the field yet this year, and Allen has played only a handful of snaps. Hall and Clements are the entrenched starters, and were the starters for the majority of 2011 as well. All are former first round picks.
This leaves another pair of former first rounders, 32-year old Terrence Newman, and Adam “don’t call me Pacman” Jones to start. Their only back-up will be Chris Harris-Lewis, called up from the practice squad this week.
To compensate, the Bengals will dress all of their safeties, including Reggie Nelson, Jeromy Miles, Taylor Mays, and Chris Crocker, who returned to the team this week. Per reports, Miles, Nelson, and Crocker can play nickel corner in a pinch, and most likely will.
The good news is that the Jags are not exactly prolific in the passing game. First round pick Justin Blackmon has yet to show much, and WR Laurent Robinson has battled concussions, but will be active today.
Other Bengals down are WR Ryan Whalen, LB Roddrick Muckelroy, and RB Bernard Scott.
Two schools of thought here: The injuries won’t matter much because the Jags are planning to keep pressure off Gabbert with Maurice Jones-Drew terrorizing the Bengals’ weak statistically-weak front seven, or, they use this opportunity to go to the air, and have a “coming out” party for Gabbert and Blackmon against a decimated secondary. I can see either unfolding.
Let’s just hope the Bengals can hold up against the pass, put pressure on Gabbert with Carlos Dunlap, Geno Atkins, and Michael Johnson, and contain MJD as best they can until they can get a 2-to-3 score lead with the blossoming offense. Fingers crossed.