Just when everything seemed to be sailing along so smoothly for the Cincinnati Bengals, some past demons of one of their previously-troubled players decided to rear their ugly head. Since he arrived in Cincinnati in the 2010 offseason, cornerback Adam Jones had seemed to transform himself from the troubled young man that was a national punchline with the Tennessee Titans and the Dallas Cowboys. Unfortunately, trouble just seems to find some people, no matter how much they try to put their past behind them.
The shame with the Jones situation (aside from getting physical with a woman, of course) is that he is coming off of one of his best seasons as a pro. Along with Leon Hall and Terence Newman, Jones had a quality renaissance last year and contributed as the nickel corner and a return man. It led to the Bengals signing him to a lucrative three-year deal. Without Jones, the Bengals lose a threat in the return game and a quality cover man.
Though it's very early in the process, there is a possibility that Jones could be looking at a suspension. He dodged a major suspension back in 2011 after an issue at a nightclub where he apparently resisted arrest. We already know about his previous legal run-ins that cost him the entire 2007 season, and Commissioner Roger Goodell has shown a penchant to be a bit inconsistent with his punishments to players. Regardless, there is a lot to play out before a suspension of any kind would be doled out.
If Jones were to miss time, it would force the Bengals to move a handful of unproven players at the position to fill the voids that Pacman would leave. There are four players that would need to instill confidence in the coaching staff, step up and help minimize the blow of Jones being gone. Again, that possibility is still a hypothetical at this point, but it is still worth examining.
Dre Kirkpatrick: Last year's first round pick has yet to make his presence be known on the field. As a rookie, Kirkpatrick only appeared in five games and amassed four tackles--not exactly a rookie-of-the-year type of season. Luckily, with Hall, Newman and Jones, the need for Kirkpatrick to contribute right away in 2012 wasn't high. He battled concussion and knee issues all season and the latter is keeping him out of minicamp this year as well. It's expected that he'll be ready by Training Camp, and the team will have to hope that is the case if Jones has to miss time.
Brandon Ghee: Since joining the team in the third round of the 2010 draft, Ghee is a source of frustration of many Bengals fans. It mostly stems from the fact that most see the promise in him and have heard much praise from the coaching staff over the past few seasons. Ghee recently lined up as the starter in minicamp, but that was due to the collective recoveries of Jones, Hall and Kirkpatrick.
Shaun Prater: The Bengals invested another pick in the 2012 draft in a cornerback in Iowa's Prater. He too was hampered by a knee injury that wiped out a promising start to his Training Camp last year. He missed the whole season, but was known as a guy who had a knack to create a turnover as a Hawkeye. He'll likely be battling Ghee for one of the final roster spots this year and he'll have to impress the staff to hang around.
Onterio McCalebb: The speedy McCalebb is one of those project players that the Bengals' coaching staff loves. He's currently making the transition from running back to corner and while he's had some growing pains, Newman recently told reporters that he's "understanding" things about the position. If McCalebb is to provide any kind of band-aid for a potential Jones suspension, it will likely come as a return man, though his work at that aspect has been limited thus far. He remains a bit a of long-shot to make the final roster at this point, but stranger things have happened.
There is a handful of other players that could help ease the possibility of Jones missing time, including cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris and some other undrafted free agents at the position. There are also some safeties that are able to cover receivers like Tony Dye and/or George Iloka, but it's the above-mentioned group of four that we'll be keeping an eye on. Again, it's still really early in the process, but like NFL teams, we have to prepare for the worst.