The Cincinnati Bengals had their last practice before their game on Sunday against the Denver Broncos. There was a lot of bad news this week, as two players who had been starting most of the season will be replaced this week. It wasn’t all bad news, though.
First, is the loss of cornerback Chidobe Awuzie. He was dealing with a foot injury but was also added to the COVID-19 reserve list on Thursday. That all but sealed his fate.
The good news there is that head coach Zac Taylor is confident that cornerback Trae Waynes will start in his place. He also insinuated that the veteran corner could have possibly gone last week, but they wanted to play things safe. Not a bad idea considering Waynes’ unfortunate injury history in Cincinnati.
“We feel better about him playing one more week of football activities with three practices,” Taylor said. “He was wanting to play last week and feeling like he could do it. But we wanted to make sure we did the right thing by him. So this week we felt better about it.”
In other cornerback news, Vernon Hargreaves missed the last two practices this week with an illness, but Taylor said the midseason acquisition is the closest of the ill players to possibly being able to go on Sunday.
The bad news at right tackle is that veteran right tackle Riley Reiff is pretty much done for the season with his ankle injury.
In other not great news, Isaiah Prince also isn’t expected to be well enough to start, which makes Fred Johnson the starting right tackle over rookie D’Ante Smith, who Taylor said is “still getting in the swing of things” after being hurt most of the regular season.
Special teams gets a bump with rookie running back Chris Evans as a full participant on Friday. He could very well take the spot left at returner with cornerback Darius Phillips heading to injured reserve. He had been seen getting work there at practice.
Finally, linebacker Markus Bailey gets some good news as a full participant on Friday. He is officially questionable for Sunday. Cincinnati may play is safe since Joe Bachie had a serviceable outing last week against the 49ers. It would also be interesting to see if Lou Anarumo would start Bailey over Bachie after last week.
The Broncos got great news when head coach Vic Fangiosaid said running back Javonte Williams is fine despite the questionable tag and being limited on Friday.
Running back Melvin Gordon III (thumb/hip), defensive end Shelby Harris (ankle), safeties Kareem Jackson back and Caden Sterns (shoulder/neck) and tackle Bobby Massie (hip) were all also listed as questionable after being limited for the second day in a row at practice.
Denver will likely be without defensive end Dre’Mont Jones (foot) and inside linebacker Kenny Young (concussion) this weekend. Neither player practiced this week. Jones is a huge loss as losing a pass rusher just makes it a little easier for Joe Burrow to sit back and pick apart the defense. Young missing time also won’t help a struggling run defense in Denver.