Starting defensive end Michael Johnson was upgraded to questionable on Saturday, according to Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson. This comes after Johnson was initially called doubtful on Friday with a back injury. The team also has ruled backup defensive tackle Pat Sims out for Sunday night with a knee injury.
It's still not clear when Sims or Johnson suffered their injuries. For Johnson, it occurred sometime between Wednesday and Thursday's practice sessions. After initially practicing Wednesday, Johnson wasn't present Thursday and was later revealed to have a back injury that also kept him out Friday. If Johnson is able to play Sunday night, he likely won't get his typical 50-plus snaps per game. That means Will Clarke, Wallace Gilberry and Margus Hunt should still be in line for more snaps, but having Johnson back is still a huge plus.
In his first season back with the Bengals after a one-year hiatus in Tampa Bay, Johnson has played in all nine games this season (8 starts) while racking up 13 tackles, two sacks and two pass defenses. He's done so while dealing with a variety of injuries, including a Grade 2 MCL sprain in the preseason and a bruised bone is his leg, which occurred toward the end of the Week 6 win in Buffalo.
While his stats don't show much, it can't be overstated how important he's been to this defense. He's very good at setting the edge, gets a lot of pressures and plays a lot of snaps that allows a good rotation at defensive end which affords the Bengals with a great pass rush for four full quarters.
Without Johnson last year, the Bengals finished 2014 dead last in sacks (20) while rarely ever getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. With Johnson back, they now rank sixth in the league with 26 sacks entering Week 11. Him playing Sunday night will be critical against a Cardinals offense that ranks fourth in passing offense while allowing just 14 sacks.
As for Sims, his chances of playing this week weren't great to being with as he's rotated with Brandon Thompson on the inactive list, so this isn't as big of a loss for the Bengals. Thompson was probably going to get the nod as the third defensive tackle anyhow with the Bengals needing additional help rushing the passer.
The Bengals haven't changed the status of cornerback Adam Jones, who is listed as doubtful with a foot injury after not practicing at all this week. Head coach Marvin Lewis rarely lets players play without at least getting one practice in, so Jones will likely be out on Sunday. While that will be a big loss, it's not a worth unnecessarily risking his long-term health to get him on the field in this game. There's almost half of a season left to go plus the postseason, which is when the Bengals need Jones most.
In case you missed it, here's the final practice and injury report for Sunday night.