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Bengals still playing to win with playoffs out of reach

Marvin Lewis says the Bengals will not be giving more snaps to younger guys just because the team has been eliminated from postseason contention.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Don’t think the Bengals are letting off the gas as the regular season winds down with no hope of the playoffs.

After elimination from postseason contention, many NFL teams give their older veterans and banged-up players more rest while allowing younger guys to get more run. The Bengals certainly could do that heading into their final two games, but as long as guys are healthy enough to play, it sounds like they’ll face the Texans in Week 16 and the Ravens in Week 17.

On Monday, head coach Marvin Lewis stressed that he won’t be giving younger guys a chance to play more than usual just because the Bengals are out of the playoff mix. He’s going to stick with his veterans and normal starters, even if some of those guys may not be here next year.

“No,” said Lewis when asked Monday if the young players would get a shot against the Texans and Ravens, via “My thought is to win these next two football games with the best players we can put out there to play. That’s what we owe to everybody. This isn’t junior high school.”

If the Bengals were going to play some of their veterans less in favor of younger, inexperienced guys, one example could be a cornerback, where veterans Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick are getting the bulk of the snaps at the boundary corner spots.

Third-year man Darqueze Dennard is still a very raw corner who clearly doesn’t have what it takes to be a good slot corner, but he’s done well on the boundary in limited playing time. Based on Lewis’ comments, Kirkpatrick and Jones will continue to get most of the snaps, and Dennard will keep getting around 3-5 snaps per game. But, don’t the Bengals need to see more of Dennard? This offseason, they’ll need to make a decision on his fifth year option and right now, how can they make that call? On Sunday, Dennard played five defensive snaps.

We also should expect Vontaze Burfict, Karlos Dansby, Vincent Rey, and Rey Maualuga to continue getting most of the linebacker snaps, even with younger guys like Nick Vigil and Marquis Flowers itching to play more. Wouldn’t it be nice to see what Vigil and Flowers can do in real game action before making additions to the linebacker group via free agency and the draft this coming offseason?

Another example is along the defensive line. Veterans Domata Peko and Michael Johnson have struggled to consistently make a positive impact this year, while younger guys like Will Clarke, DeShawn Williams and Margus Hunt are hoping to play more. Hunt is in a contract year and hasn’t proven he deserves a new deal. Clarke has had some nice games this season, but needs more playing time. And Williams has finally been active in recent weeks after watching from the sidelines for the large majority of the year. He already has a sack this season in extremely limited playing time, which is more than Hunt can say.

Again, Lewis’ comments suggest Peko and Johnson will keep getting their normal workload, while those younger and inexperienced guys will continue getting limited snaps.

The Offense will likely be no different. With A.J. Green set to return along with James Wright being healthy now to join veteran Brandon LaFell, Cody Core could be inactive this week and Alex Erickson will likely go back to strictly special teams, if Green is a full go. One would think giving more chances to Core and Erickson would be ideal for next year, but that’s not how the Bengals think.

This is simply how things are gonna work as long as Lewis is in Cincinnati.

“The guys out here put their neck on the line all the time. We have to make sure we're all doing it in the same direction,” Lewis said of continuing to play his starters, via ESPN. “If we have somebody that's not quite in step with us, then we'll have someone else in there."