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Bengals’ defense will have to adapt if Trey Hendrickson misses time

The Bengals don’t have a great answer to replacing Trey Hendrickson, but they likely will need more bodies at the very least.

Cincinnati Bengals v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images

This was an interesting game to examine the snaps for the Cincinnati Bengals. They have started to deal with injuries on the defensive side of the ball, and we are seeing midseason additions getting more work because of it. Of course we will also be seeing what could possibly be changing going forward as well with this team needing to almost run the table to even think about making the playoffs.

San Francisco 49ers take advantage of miscues

The Bengals had plenty of mistakes that extended 49ers’ drives. San Francisco didn’t convert their first third down until the second half, but they were able to get great field position and extend drives through Cincinnati’s own mistakes. The most memorable probably being Darius Phillips two muffed punts that setup 10 points for the 49ers. Safety Vonn Bell was also hit with a taunting penalty (which was questionable at best) that gave the 49ers an opportunity to turn a field goal attempt into a touchdown the following play.

The defense did a fantastic job bottling up a very good San Francisco offense pretty much all game. You wouldn’t know that from looking at the final score or the final drive, but they deserve praise.

Meanwhile, the Bengals’ offense took until the fourth quarter to really start attacking a 49ers secondary that was incredibly banged up. For some reason, it seems Cincinnati’s offensive game plan focused heavily on establishing the run. That may work when you have the lead and you can protect Joe Burrow behind not having to throw. However, making him only available to throw in obvious passing situations is arguably worse than limiting the amount of drop backs he takes.

The 49ers won the snap count battle 71 to 67, which tells you how easily this came could have gone the other way if the Bengals could just get out of their own way.

Trey Hendrickson’s injury looms large

This is a big one for Cincinnati’s defense. Hendrickson has probably made the biggest difference to this defense from last year, and he is by far the team’s best pass rusher. When he left with a back injury, Jimmy Garoppolo went from having to get the ball out quickly to having all day. The defense eventually started blitzing more to make up for this.

Rookie defensive end Cam Sample saw a huge boost to his playing time, and he played well considering the circumstances. However, it is pretty clear that the Bengals don’t have another guy capable of consistently getting pressure on a quarterback in obvious passing situations. Cincinnati having to adjust and send more blitzes is a pretty big shift for this defense.

If Hendrickson misses extended time, it will be interesting to see how this team handles it. Khalid Kareem was inactive this week, so he will likely get to play, but Cincinnati hopefully won’t be as reliant on Sample playing the kind of snaps Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard usually play. They need to keep this defensive line fresh.

Special changes

It is very likely that Phillips will not be returning punts anymore for the Bengals. There is a very big chance that he even becomes a healthy scratch with players like Tre Flowers and Vernon Hargreaves adding depth at corner.

We will likely see Trenton Irwin activated instead. He returned punts against the Los Angeles Chargers last week. Pooka Williams is also a name to watch as he returned kicks last week as well. He could also be in the running for returning punts as well. He would have to either be signed to the active roster or called up from the practice squad, though.

Random notes

  • B.J. Hill saw a huge increase in playing time this week. He practically had as many snaps as the past two weeks combined. He almost played as many snaps as Larry Ogunjobi. Hill looked good this week on defense, and he should be a guy they look to retain from multiple seasons.
  • We saw more Isaiah Prince with Riley Reiff going down with an injury. He had some good reps, but as you can imagine, Nick Bosa is a hard assignment for even the best offensive linemen in the NFL.
  • Linebacker Joe Bachie looked very serviceable with Logan Wilson and Markus Bailey out this week. Cincinnati has to have some real confidence following that performance that Bachie is a competent replacement for now.

What were your takeaways?

Bengals snap counts against 49ers

POS. NAME Snaps Percentage of snaps
POS. NAME Snaps Percentage of snaps
WR Tyler Boyd 57 85
WR Mike Thomas 5 7
WR Ja'Marr Chase 65 97
WR Tee Higgins 50 75
WR Stanley Morgan 13 19
WR Trenton Irwin DNP DNP
OT Jonah Williams 67 100
OT Riley Reiff 44 66
OT Isaiah Prince 24 36
OT Fred Johnson DNP DNP
OG Jackson Carman -- --
OG Quinton Spain 67 100
OG Hakeem Adeniji 67 100
C Trey Hopkins 67 100
C Trey Hill -- --
TE C.J. Uzomah 58 87
TE Drew Sample 18 27
TE Mitchell Wilcox -- --
QB Joe Burrow 67 100
QB Brandon Allen -- --
RB Joe Mixon 40 60
RB Samaje Perine 28 42
RB Chris Evans DNP DNP
RB Trayveon Williams -- --
DE Trey Hendrickson 22 31
DE Cam Sample 43 61
DE Sam Hubbard 68 96
DE Wyatt Ray 10 14
DE Khalid Kareem DNP DNP
DT D.J. Reader 42 59
DT Larry Ogunjobi 56 79
DT Josh Tupou 17 24
DT B.J. Hill 52 73
DT Tyler Shelvin DNP DNP
LB Logan Wilson DNP DNP
LB Germaine Pratt 71 100
LB Joe Baiche 47 66
LB Markus Bailey DNP DNP
LB Clay Johnston -- --
LB Keandre Jones -- --
LB Austin Calitro -- --
CB Mike Hilton 47 66
CB Chidobe Awuzie 58 82
CB Tre Flowers 6 8
CB Jalen Davis -- --
CB Darius Phillips -- --
CB Eli Apple 70 99
CB Vernon Hargreaves 14 20
S Ricardo Allen 16 23
S Vonn Bell 71 100
S Jessie Bates III 71 100
S Michael Thomas -- --