With just less than a week until the regular season kicks off, the Bengals continue to get healthy in hopes of being close to full strength for Week 1.
The big clash in New Jersey with the Jets looks like one of Cincinnati's tougher games this year, so having as many injured players as they currently do could be very costly. As many as five key players could miss that game based on who's banged up right now, but all but one of the injured Bengals look to be aiming to play in Week 1.
On Monday, tight end Tyler Kroft, offensive tackle Jake Fisher, cornerback Darqueze Dennard, and offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi were all back at Bengals practice and took part in team drills. All four players are questionable to play in Week 1 after missing varying amounts of training camp and preseason time. Kroft and Dennard missed all four preseason games while Ogbuehi was injured in the first preseason game and Fisher in the second. Seeing those four players back on the practice field working is a very positive sign.
Kroft is dealing with a knee injury suffered early in training camp. It was projected to keep him out for 4-6 weeks, making his Week 1 availability questionable. Seeing him able to do team drills bodes well for his return, which would see him being the starting tight end.
That's because Tyler Eifert is not practicing with the team as he works his way back from ankle surgery. Head coach Marvin Lewis confirmed Monday that Eifert would only do his rehab work this week, making him effectively out for Week 1. That makes Kroft's return much more imperative.
Dennard is dealing with what was initially called a minor ankle injury that Lewis thought would sideline him a week or so. We're now five weeks into that recovery as he finally returns to practice, which makes it look like Dennard was dealing with something more serious than just an ankle sprain. It's possible it was a high ankle sprain, which would explain him missing a month of action, but at least he's back practicing now.
Ogbuehi is back practicing after suffering a toe injury in the first preseason game that has sidelined him for the past month. He's the starting right tackle if he can stay healthy. Week 1 against a strong Jets pass rush will make his starting debut a tough one, especially after he missed the final three preseason games after looking shaky in the first one. This morning, Ogbuehi confirmed that he plans to play this week against the Jets.
As for Fisher, he suffered an injury in the first half of the preseason win over Detroit. He had to be carted back to the locker room as it appeared the injury was very serious. However, Lewis said after the game that Fisher's injury was merely an ankle sprain.
It ended up sidelining him for about three weeks before returning to practice Monday. Remember, the injury to Ogbuehi forced Fisher to be the starting right tackle after the first preseason game. That could be a job both men battle for into the regular season, though it looks like it's Ogbuehi's job for now.
Sharing the rehab field with Eifert was Brandon Thompson. The veteran defensive tackle is currently on the Physically Unable to Perform list, and must miss the first six games of the season. However, Thompson can do rehab work on the side while he waits for his return to action. He's still recovering from a torn ACL suffered in Week 17 last season.
Everyone else on the 53-man roster was able to practice on Monday. The Bengals are getting healthy and there couldn’t be a better time to see that happening.