UPDATE: 3 p.m. EST
The Bengals have ruled out Michael Johnson with a concussion. Thus far, rookie defensive end Jordan Willis has gotten the majority of snaps in Johnson’s place.
The Cincinnati Bengals are dropping like flies against the Baltimore Ravens. The latest to go down is Michael Johnson, who sustained a stinger and is being evaluated for a concussion, the team announced.
The play in question came on the final play of the first half. Johnson went down and laid flat on his back for about a minute after the end of the second quarter. He was examined by trainers and helped up before heading for the locker room for further examinations.
If Johnson is out for the remainder of the game, the Bengals will rely heavily on Jordan Willis and Chris Smith to finish the game. Those two were already getting snaps, but that will expand with Johnson sidelined. Both players are actually an upgrade over Johnson in the pass-rushing department, but Johnson may be the better lineman at setting the edge and defending the run.
Johnson being out also means linebacker Carl Lawson will get more snaps as a nickel pass rusher. My guess is Willis becomes the primary end next to Carlos Dunlap with Smith and Lawson getting reps on passing downs.
Coming into the season, the Bengals were hoping Johnson would rebound this year and get back to the MJ the Bengals knew and adored from 2011-13, when he was among the league’s better edge defenders while racking up 21 sacks.
Since then, Johnson has accounted for just 12.5 sacks in three seasons, one of which was a one-year disaster in Tampa Bay. That led to him being cut after signing a massive free agent deal before re-joining the Bengals.
Johnson is now 30 years old and accounted for just five sacks in 2015 before getting just 3.5 last season. He even ranked 103rd out of 110 eligible edge defenders in Pro Football Focus’ rankings. His play doesn’t look like that of a starting defensive end making upwards of $5 million annually, but that’s his situation heading into 2017.
Even so, this is the last thing the Bengals need. Johnson is a great locker-room presence and one of the last true leaders this team has.