The Cincinnati Bengals are banged up at linebacker heading into their third preseason game against Washington on Sunday.
On Wednesday, four linebackers were sidelined with various injuries at practice: Kevin Minter, Brandon Bell, Hardy Nickerson and P.J. Dawson.
#Bengals LB group looking thin today. Kevin Minter, Brandon Bell, PJ Dawson and Hardy Nickerson all not participating.— Paul Dehner Jr. (@pauldehnerjr) August 23, 2017
Brandon Wilson, Brandon Bell on rehab field. #Bengals— Jay Morrison (@JayMorrisonCMG) August 23, 2017
It’s good that Bell was at least on the rehab field getting some work in, which could signal his undisclosed injury is not too severe. The former Penn State star had a good showing in training camp, but he’s not made the kind of impact in two preseason games necessary to earn him a spot on the 53-man roster. The undrafted free agent still looks like a prime practice squad candidate.
Another undrafted linebacker vying for a roster spot is Nickerson, who is recovering from a scary back injury sustained in Saturday’s preseason defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs. He too had a good camp, but his injury likely ensures he won’t make the roster. Look for him to be a practice squad candidate as well.
Dawson is also vying for a spot on the practice squad after missing most of training camp and the preseason with a hand injury. He has virtually no shot at the 53-man roster right now after missing so much time, but he does have one year of practice squad eligibility remaining. If he were to clear waivers, I think the Bengals would prefer to give him a spot over Nickerson and Bell, though I think they ultimately keep two linebackers on the 10-man squad.
As for Minter, his injury is undisclosed. It’s possible this is a veteran’s rest day, though he has just four years of experience and is still learning the Bengals’ defense. Hopefully, this issue doesn’t keep him out out long, as he’s projected to start at middle linebacker and have a major role in this defense.
One other note: It’s good to see Brandon Wilson is working on the rehab field as he recovers from his mysterious knee injury. He has yet to practice or even come off the Non-Football Injury list (NFI). It looks like he’ll remain there entering the regular season, making him ineligible to play or count against the 53-man roster for at least the first six weeks of the regular season. He may not play at all this year, but seeing him at least on the rehab field suggests Wilson could eventually be healthy enough to return.
Also of note, wide receiver Cody Core returned to practice on Wednesday after missing a little more than a week with an ankle injury, which was suffered in the first preseason contest.