CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 02: Thomas Howard #53 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates after the 23-20 victory against the Buffalo Bills at Paul Brown Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Bengals outside linebacker Thomas Howard, who is dealing with a hamstring, worked out on the side during practice on Monday while starting middle linebacker Rey Maualuga sat out. It's expected that Maualuga will likely be out this week against the Seattle Seahawks and perhaps several games afterwards with a sprained ankle. By the time Cincinnati kicks off at 4:00 p.m., it could be Dan Skuta at middle linebacker and Brandon Johnson as the outside linebacker during nickel situations, as well as the weak-side backer in base formations.
Skuta posted his first career start at middle linebacker against the Indianapolis Colts and took part on 37 of the team's defensive snaps last weekend, posting five tackles, a quarterback pressure and an overall grade of average according to Pro Football Focus. It was the most extensive snaps on defense since joining the team in 2009. He's played every game this year, posting 12 tackles this year, including a shared sack, forced fumble and two special teams tackles.
While Howard missing the game appears as a possibility, Brandon Johnson is more than a serviceable backup. When Keith Rivers' rookie season came to a premature end against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Johnson started the final nine games in his place, posting 112 tackles.