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Bengals vs Jets: Tyler Eifert out, Darqueze Dennard doubtful; who steps up?

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The Bengals will be without at least one key starter and likely two against the Jets. Who will step up in their absence?

Cincinnati Bengals OTA's Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

As expected, the Cincinnati Bengals will not have Tyler Eifert on Sunday when they face the New York Jets. However, it looks like Darqueze Dennard will also miss the Week 1 affair at MetLife Stadium.

The Bengals' final injury report has Eifert listed as out, while Dennard got the doubtful designation. The former means Eifert is 100 percent not playing, and Dennard is unlikely to suit up. The NFL has changed its injury reporting this year to eliminate probable designations and just allow teams to classify injured players are out, doubtful or questionable.

Eifert is recovering from offseason ankle surgery that could sideline him for two to five more games based on the most recent projection. It's the same ankle Eifert injured eight months ago in the Pro Bowl.

With him out, the Bengals will rely more on Tyler Kroft, C.J. Uzomah and Ryan Hewitt to step up and make up for the lost production. Hewitt will line up at fullback, h-back and tight end this year, but with Eifert out, he'll probably get more reps at tight end.

Kroft is the de facto starting tight end, but he's coming off a knee sprain that cost him the past month of action. That is why Uzomah got so much playing time in the preseason, and he should expect to see lots of playing time against the Jets.

As for Dennard and the corners, he's coming off an ankle sprain that cost him the past month of action. He was expected to be the Week 1 starter in the slot, but now it looks like he won't play until Week 2 at the earliest.

With Dennard out, second-year man Josh Shaw figures to be the starting slot corner. He spent time in the slot and the boundary during his rookie season. His playing time increased during the second half of the 2015 season when Dennard went down with a season-ending shoulder injury.

The Bengals made a risky call on their initial 53-man roster by keeping just five corners, but later re-signed Chykie Brown once William Jackson wa placed on Injured Reserve. Brown also figures to get some playing time this week after an up-and-down preseason.

And we can't forget about Chris Lewis-Harris. Now entering his fifth NFL season and in the midst of a contract year, Lewis-Harris figures to play a lot this week with Dennard out. CLH can play both the boundary and in the slot.

I expect the Bengals to keep five corners active Sunday with Dennard likely being inactive. It's possible they only roll with four since safety Derron Smith can also play in the slot, if needed.

Whatever happens, the Bengals' corners will have their hands full against a talented Jets offense that features Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Keeping all of them contained was going to be no easy task, so not having Dennard will only make it more challenging.