Regular Season Question At Linebacker: How Will Injuries Impact Overall Linebacker Depth?

CLEVELAND - OCTOBER 03: Running back Peyton Hillis #40 of the Cleveland Browns is tackled by defenders Keith Rivers #55 and Rey Maualuga #58 of the Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns Stadium on October 3 2010 in Cleveland Ohio. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

One could argue that injuries at linebacker generated a response by the team to actually improve the overall state of the position. Of course that's largely due to preexisting perspectives regarding Keith Rivers, who was selected ninth overall in the 2008 NFL Draft, accumulated the second-most tackles on the team with the smallest average yards/gained on players he tackled (according to the 2011 Football Outsiders Almanac). That being said, Rivers arrived at training camp with a cast after undergoing surgery to, as one report suggested, "rebuild" the wrist. Rivers is currently on the Non-Football Injury list and much like the Reserve/PUP list, won't be allowed to practice or play through the first weeks.

The Bengals responded by signing free agent Thomas Howard and bringing Brandon Johnson back. Roddrick Muckelroy suffered a season-ending injury, prompting the team to sign Manny Lawson.

Injuries redefined the position from a projected line-up of Rey Maualuga in the middle with Rivers as the WILL (weakside linebacker) and a competition between Muckelroy and Skuta as the SAM (strongside linebacker) to the configuration today with Lawson starting at SAM and Howard at WILL.

Starters: Rey Maualuga, Manny Lawson, Thomas Howard
Backups: Dan Skuta, Dontay Moch, Brandon Johnson
Other: Vincent Rey

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