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George Iloka injury provides opportunities for others

Bengals starting safety George Iloka sat during Thursday's practice -- it's the second time he's missed practice this week. If he's unable to go, Shawn Williams is the mostly likely candidate to replace him.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Bengals safety George Iloka missed practice on Thursday, his second this week, creating obvious doubt whether he'll dress for Sunday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs. According to multiple reports, Iloka pulled himself out from last week's game because his ankle was making him a liability; he originally injured it against the Oakland Raiders.

One example being cited as the play which may have triggered his removal from the game was Steve Smth's 50-yard touchdown with 6:37 remaining in the third quarter. Baltimore converted a fourth-and-five from midfield. Smith spun around away from Reggie Nelson, slid off Emmanuel Lamur and easily avoided the hobbled-Iloka (a healthy Iloka makes that play).

Steve Smith TD


"As a competitor, you want to be in there. You want to be able to play every week," Iloka said earlier this week. "I wasn't playing like myself. I wasn't making the plays that I usually make. As much as it hurt me to pull myself out, I told [defensive coordinator Paul Guenther] and he was like 'all right.'"

"I've got to get healthy so I can go out there and play like I know I can," Iloka said. "With the backups we have and how good they are, it made it a little bit easier [to take himself out]. I would have felt bad if I came out and we lost."

If Iloka is out (we're not going to project his status at this point), Shawn Williams is the logical candidate to replace him this weekend against the Chiefs. Williams, a former third-round pick from the 2013 NFL draft, played 31 snaps on Sunday against Baltimore -- he played 47 of 66 against the Raiders when Iloka sat during the second half with an injured ankle. In both games combined, Williams has defended four passes and allowed one completion (a four-yard reception against the Raiders).

There is a theory that Leon Hall could get more reps at safety to 1) provide additional experience at a position he practiced during training camp and 2) give Darqueze Dennard playing time in rotation with Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick. Then again, Jones (missed Wednesday's practice with an elbow) and Kirkpatrick (limited on Wednesday with a shoulder after having his arm in a sling earlier this week) are working through aliments of their own.

Yet, it's hard to quiet Marvin Lewis' enthusiastic comments regarding Dennard during his weekly presser: "His time will come. We need all these guys. His production in other areas is great, we have to keep it up," Lewis said. "He's had a good couple weeks of practice since coming back from injury he suffered in training camp, and that's what you have to do. You have to go and be ready... He'll play just as well as what we're playing, and I feel good about that. He's smart, and he's trained to play a bunch of different sports there, which is good."

This theory suggests Hall works a few repetitions at safety while Dennard plays from the slot. In addition to playing safety throughout training camp, Hall has played safety when Mike Zimmer was the team's defensive coordinator. "I did that with Zim," Hall said last month. "I'm still at the nickel position, it's just a change-up basically. We did that here with Zim a couple of years, so it was nothing new."

If there's going to be a time for Cincinnati to experiment with Hall at safety, if could be this weekend, if Iloka sits. Then again, why experiment when everything else is working?