Part of the success story of the Cincinnati Bengals over the past few seasons has been miraculous health. After tearing his ACL in his rookie season, Bengals star quarterback Joe Burrow has been able to avoid missing any game time in the following two seasons. That has heartbreakingly changed this season after the star gunslinger tore a ligament in his right wrist in a freak injury against the Baltimore Ravens. Unfortunately for the Bengals, the injury woes haven’t diminished after that.
Injury issues along the Cincinnati Bengals Defense
The Cincinnati Bengals defense has taken a dramatic step back this season from a mid-level defense (ranked 16th in the NFL) to the second worst defense in the NFL. While it is certainly no excuse after poor player from usually sound players like Germaine Pratt and D.J. Reader, injuries have played a huge role in that.
Injuries in the Secondary
The Bengals will be missing one of their best defenders of the underperforming 2023 reason in Cam Taylor-Britt in Week 13 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Taylor-Britt was officially ruled out after he sprained his ankle during Fridays practice. He was already struggling with a quadriceps injury sustained against the Buffalo Bills and the ankle injury has officially closed out his Week 13.
Head Coach Zac Taylor says that he is unsure of the long-term availability of Taylor-Britt, who has become the Bengals most reliable coverage player. Taylor-Britt is currently tied for third in the NFL in interceptions (4) and has a forced fumble to add to his tally.
This injury is added on top of Chidobe Awuzie, who has been struggling after he missed the second half of the 2022 season with a torn ACL. Awuzie had become a rock in the Bengals secondary, posting coverage grades of approximately 80 grades by Pro Football Focus over his first two seasons in Cincinnati. This season Awuzie has fallen to 64 in his coverage score. This isn’t a horrible score but not worthy of a top-end cornerback.
Missing Cincinnati Bengals in the trenches
The most detrimental absences on the Bengals defense has been two of the most disciplined defensive ends in the NFL. Trey Hendrickson has missed time as has Sam Hubbard. Hendrickson is a major impact rushing the passer but both Hubbard and Hendrickson have historically been elite run-stoppers on the defensive edge for Cincinnati. Without these two players in the trenches, the Bengals have been incapable of stopping the run, ranking second to last in the NFL.
Taylor-Britt’s absence will be huge against the speed of Jacksonville
The Jacksonville Jaguars don’t necessarily have an elite offense but they do have speed at the wide receiver and running back positions. Slot receiver Christian Kirk and running back Travis Etienne have each put in excellent season on the Jaguars offense and similar to the elite unit Miami Dolphins Head Coach Mike McDaniel has put together, Jaguars Head Coach Doug Peterson has clearly emphasized speed at his offensive skill positions. Earlier in the week, Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo praised Jacksonville’s offensive speed and versatility, coupled with the play from quarterback Trevor Lawrence. The combination of the three gives the Jacksonville Jaguars an imposing unit.“There’s a reason why they’ve won all these games,” Anarumo said Thursday. “A big part of it is what they can do on offense.”
As one of their fastest defenders, it is the worst possible time to be missing Cam Taylor-Britt to be out with a long-term injury. The Bengals will need to focus on getting their defense healthy before they can make any legitimate attempt to contend for the AFC North.