The Bengals have a few players expected to return this week from injuries. At this point, that list doesn’t include star linebacker Vontaze Burfict or backup Vinny Rey, but several young guys who were lost early in camp due to injuries.
In addition to those two linebackers, cornerback Tony McRae, cornerback Sojourn Shelton, wide receiver Cody Core, defensive tackle Josh Tupou and defensive tackle Andrew Brown have been dealing with injuries suffered during training camp.
McRae hurt his ankle early in camp, but he may be good to go very soon. According to Bengals.com, he could be back as soon as this week.
He is pretty far behind in the roster battle at cornerback though. The top three is set with William Jackson, Dre Kirkpatrick and Darqueze Dennard. Beyond that, Keivarae Russell has had some stand out moments on defense, which includes an interception during the Bengals’ first preseason game. Darius Phillips had a nice performance on special teams in the second preseason game, including a 28 yard kick return, 44 yard kick return and 24-yard punt return. That along with him being a fifth round draft pick should be enough to secure him a spot on the 53-man roster.
The severity of cornerback Devontae Harris’ injury suffered against the Cowboys still isn’t known, but if he gets put on Injured/Reserve, then McRae may have a shot at the roster. But, at this point he’s a long shot. McRae spent some time on the Bengals’ active roster last season after being waived by the Ravens, claimed by the Bills and then two days later released again. If he wants to make the Bengals’ roster this year he will need to flash on special teams as well as defense in the final two preseason games.
Shelton’s injury and timeline to return are currently unknown.
The same is true of Core who was absent from the Bengals’ practice on Tuesday August 14 after playing in the first preseason game and recording no statistics on offense. He can’t afford to miss time as Auden Tate looks to steal Core’s roster spot.
Brown will be looking to make his return as well, with Bengals.com saying he, too “could be back this week.” Brown has been dealing with a hamstring issue, suffered on August 1. That same day, Tupou went down with a knee injury. He’s not expected back as soon and the original timeline for his recovery was set at one month, which would be right around roster cuts.
Both players are part of an active competition for roster spots and depth chart positioning at defensive tackle. Players like Andrew Billings and Ryan Glasgow have pretty sizable head starts. There are still roster spots to be had though. Chris Baker hasn’t seen much playing time so far and could end up cut. Even recently acquired rookie Eddy Wilson has been playing more than Baker.
Tupou also spent some time on the Bengals active roster last season, and Brown is a very young fifth round pick. He is only 22-years-old, oozing with potential, but could also end him up on the practice squad if the Bengals can get him there. It really depends on how high the team is on Wilson and how many defensive tackles they keep, considering Jordan Willis and Sam Hubbard have shown they are capable of sliding inside on passing downs.
It will be great to get these players healthy and back on-the-field. More competition is always good when you are looking for guys to play their very best, and some of these banged-up guys could very well end up on the roster.