+ Linebackers is a mash unit. As for injuries, Cincinnati's linebackers have been hit hard as hard as any unit on the team. Rey Maualuga is out this weekend, with what's being described as an ankle sprain, after an October 13 practice. Thomas Howard, listed as questionable, is dealing with a hamstring that he hurt against the Indianapolis Colts, spending Monday and Wednesday's practice off the side with limited work on Thursday and Friday; though head coach Marvin Lewis said Howard "should be fine." Dan Skuta (groin), the backup linebacker to Rey Maualuga, returned to full participation on Friday and listed as probable.
As of this posting, the Bengals truly only have four healthy linebackers: Brandon Johnson, Dontay Moch, Vincent Rey and Manny Lawson. Johnson, who may split snaps with Dan Skuta, is perhaps the most important of the group:
"I saw more snaps but mainly because we had the lead so they had to throw the ball more," said Johnson. "My role is what’s ever is needed. I’m kind of like the monkey wrench guy, I guess. I try to go in and fit into any situation and just do what’s needed."
A special teams captain in 2010, Johnson's "monkey wrench" is an adept description. Expected to split snaps with Dan Skuta this weekend at middle linebacker, Johnson could also be working outside linebacker when Skuta is in the game and when Howard needs a spell to limit the impact on his injury hamstring. Through six games this year, Johnson has participated in 60 defensive snaps, with 2/3rds of those snaps during passing situations. And of 43 of those snaps came against the Indianapolis Colts during week six.