The Bengals have four games left to play and the most we can hope for in those games is no injuries and plays that offer inspiration and hope for the future of the team.
The Bengals are dealing with a ton of injuries on defense coming into this game, making it that time of the season to watch out for the players who will give you hope for seasons to come.
Here are five players we’ll be paying attention to when the Bengals take on the Bears on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.
Wide receiver A.J. Green
Now that the season is slowly coming to an end, we need to appreciate Green for these next few games. It is time to cling onto any positive going forward during this season of disappointment and Green is one of those positives.
Green could put on a showcase against the Bears’ weak secondary this week. After all, he did score twice (really three times) against the Steelers, and if the Bengals would’ve pulled off a win, it would’ve been because of him. Sure, he had a few drops in the game as well, but if you think the Bengals would’ve been in a position to win without him, you are crazy.
Cornerback William Jackson
Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick have been ruled out for this week and Darqueze Dennard is questionable after getting in one limited practice on Friday. That being said, we should see plenty of Jackson on Sunday as he will be starting. He has really shown why the Bengals selected him in the first round two years ago.
He is another source of hope for the future. He has shutdown Antonio Brown in the two games in which they have been matched up. He also took an interception back for a touchdown against Aaron Rodgers, which was only the second pick six in Rodgers’ NFL career. He has shown that the Bengals have a guy who could potentially be one of the top corners in the league next year.
Linebacker Jordan Evans
With both Nick Vigil and Vontaze Burfict out this week, it looks like we will see plenty of Evans again. He played all of the defensive snaps against the Steelers last week. He didn’t really shine, but he didn’t show he was bad either (OK, except for when he totally bailed on Le’Veon Bell and allowed him to score the easiest touchdown of all time).
His day will be just as busy again this week. The Bears showcase their two-running back offense made up of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen extensively. A vast majority of their offense comes from these two players, and with Vigil and Burfict both out, it will be on Evans and Kevin Minter to contain those two. If Evans struggles, it could be a closer game than people are expecting.
Running back Giovani Bernard
Joe Mixon suffered a concussion against the Steelers last week, and will not play on Sunday. That means we would see plenty of Bernard. For those who may have forgotten, Bernard is one of the best backup running backs in the NFL. He hasn’t played much this season as the backfield was extremely crowded with Jeremy Hill and Mixon.
Last week we were all reminded that Bernard is very talented. He had 97 total yards on 15 touches. He kept the ship afloat while Mixon was out. He will have to repeat that this week, but it could be his chance to reintroduce himself to Bengals fans who may have forgotten just how valuable he is to this team.
Safety Clayton Fejedelem
So many members of the secondary are out this week. Luckily, George Iloka’s suspension got overturned, otherwise I’m not sure what the Bengals would’ve done. Still, it is looking like Fejedelem will be playing a vast majority of the safety snaps next to Iloka since Josh Shaw will have to help more at corner.
Fejedelem has played quite a bit of safety this season. He was involved in a safety rotation early on in the season when Iloka wasn’t all the way healthy. He has been more of a bright spot on special teams though. He is often there to make the sure tackle early in the play. This week, he will have to show he is capable of holding his own on the back end of the defense with all the injuries the team is experiencing.