Despite the total drubbing of the New York Jets on Sunday, the Cincinnati Bengals have a lot of questions heading into Thursday Night's game. Thankfully, they're roster concerns and not based on their performance. However, these questions will have an eventual impact against the Miami Dolphins this week.
What's The Status of Whitworth and Mays: Bengals safety Taylor Mays and offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth were sidelined during Monday's practice -- which was essentially a walk-through after the team's win on Sunday and the short turnaround this week.
Taylor Mays has already been ruled out against the Miami Dolphins. Whitworth has been evasive on the result of his MRI that he underwent on Monday. In my opinion, if there were a glimmer of hope, Whitworth would have participated to some degree. However, the Bengals have the luxury of sitting Whitworth on Thursday and giving the capable Anthony Collins the start; which we figure will happen, allowing Whitworth extended rest before their next game on Nov. 10.
Who replaces Mays as the hybrid coverage linebacker? When linebacker Emmanuel Lamur suffered a season-ending injury during the preseason finale earlier this year, the Bengals were stuck with finding an adequate replacement. Now that Mays suffered what could be viewed as a similar injury (though we're waiting to learn the seriousness of it), the Bengals might be forced to find another.
Dre Kirkpatrick? He's roughly the same height as Mays but he's not a tackler and the idea of the hybrid coverage linebacker is to keep the passing defense strong while limiting the declining impact in case the opposition runs. Plus, Kirkpatrick only weighs 185 pounds compared to Mays' 220 pound frame. Not a fit at that position, plus he's working more extensively in the slot with Leon Hall's injury opening that vacancy.
Michael Boley seems like the most logical as a short-term solution (aka, he's already on the team), who was signed to become the de facto backup coverage linebacker; though he allowed five of six completions for 41 yards against the Jets in the second half last week. Boley sat during Monday's practice, but we view the hamstring more as an issue of soreness, playing extensively after sitting for so long.
When will Leon Hall go on IR? Considering that the Bengals have players on their roster that may miss some time (Maualuga, Mays, Whitworth and even Devon Still), the team needs to start thinking about using Hall's roster spot. Either calling up linebacker J.K. Schaffer, or signing street free agent for depth, the Bengals are accumulating injuries that are wasting spots on the 53-man roster.
However, the team needs to make a corresponding move, instead of just moving Hall to IR. Though not confirmed, Cincinnati could lose Greg McElroy's eligibility on the practice squad and there's a feeling that the team may sign the recently returned DeQuin Evans to the practice squad. For them to be eligible on the practice squad, Cincinnati must maintain a full 53-man roster, per NFL rules.
Who Stands In For Rey Maualuga? It was reported on Monday that Cincinnati's starting middle linebacker had suffered a sprained MCL against the Jets on Sunday. He'll be out at least three weeks, if not more (just depends on his overall recovery and succeeding rehabilitation). However, head coach Marvin Lewis is refuting that report.
Now the question is, who stands in for him.
Recently signed Michael Boley replaced Maualuga in the second half, however Vinny/Vinnie Rey took first-team snaps during practice on Monday.
Does Andrew Hawkins finally get activated? The Cincinnati Bengals only have two weeks from Wednesday to make a decision on Hawkins. Days before he practiced for the first time last Wednesday, he admitted that he wasn't completely healthy but he's learning to trust his rehabilitated ankle after a full week's of practice.
Considering the depth of the team's wide receiver roster and their subsequent rise (looking at you, Marvin Jones), Cincinnati could wait until the deadline to make a decision if there's a pressing need to use Leon Hall's roster spot elsewhere.