Amid the final injury report that we posted here at Cincy Jungle earlier today, we saw that a number of Bengals players were ailing from an assortment of different maladies. The one injury that most people were up in arms about was the hamstring issue of Carlos Dunlap. With Dunlap in the lineup, it would bring a big presence along the Bengals' defensive front and go a long way in applying pressure to Steelers quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger.
But, Dunlap's injury seems to be overshadowing what's becoming a bigger underlying issue than that of the big man's month-long hamstring pull. The Bengals secondary group is getting decimated with injuries at a critical point in the season.
If you really want to nitpick, one could argue that the depth problem amongst the defensive backs began with Johnathan Joseph leaving for the Houston Texans via free agency. But, if we start at when the regular season acually began, the first sign of trouble came with the release of Morgan Trent. He hadn't been exactly lighting the world on fire, but he had been a steady player for the team since being drafted. But, the first big blow was the season-ending achilles injury to their best player in the group, Leon Hall. This was a huge loss to the defense as a whole, but the Bengals felt as if they had a couple of contingency plans to deal with this setback.In the offseason, the Bengals had made a trade for former first-round cornerback, Kelly Jennings, for one. Secondly, the Bengals got Adam Jones back healthy at just the right time, as he saw his way back into game action the very next game after Hall's injury. Lastly, the team called up one of their 2010 third round draft picks, Brandon Ghee, from their practice squad. None of these players would fully make up for the loss of Hall, but the team had some decent options to work with.
Fortunately for the Bengals, the safety position has been left relatively unscathed. The unfortunate aspect when speaking of the safety group has been their inconsistent play. Reggie Nelson has created a few turnovers, but still tends to get beat on the deep ball. Chris Crocker, the tenured veteran of the secondary, has provided leadership but has struggled at times as well.
Now with the injury reports out today, we find that the team's No.1 cornerback, Nate Clements, didn't practice today due to a hamstring issue of his own and is questionable for Sunday's big matchup against the Steelers. Along with Clements' injury, Ghee is apparently nursing a groin injury. If, for some reason, these two don't suit up, the Bengals would be left only with Jones, Jennings and special teamer Jeromy Miles as their corners. They'd also likely use Crocker in nickel situations should that be the case. That's not an ideal situation, to say the least.
None of the players in the secondary have had Pro Bowl-like seasons--Hall included--and there's a decent chance that both Ghee and Clements end up playing this Sunday. But, in the home stretch of games that includes matchups against wide receivers like: Mike Wallace, Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and Torrey Smith, the Bengals need all of the able bodies in that group that they can get.