The regular season has not yet begun, but the injuries have started piling up for the Bengals. After putting two starters on the offensive line on IR before the season, Travelle Wharton and Kyle Cook (though the latter can be reactivated later this season), the Bengals are expected to be without 4 key contributors with injury for their week 1 battle with the Baltimore Ravens as Carlos Dunlap, Jason Allen, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Bernard Scott are all expected to miss.
Kirkpatrick’s and Allen’s absence will force Nate Clements, in his age 33 season, to start opposite Leon Hall. Hall, meanwhile, probably won’t be 100% just 10 months after tearing his Achilles. Including playoffs, they allowed 23.8 points per game in their final 9 games without Hall, as opposed to 17.5 points per game in their first 8 games with Hall last season. Obviously having him 100% would be a huge boost for them, but I can’t see him being 100%, at least not this week.
Dunlap’s absence hurts because the Bengals already lost Frostee Rucker and Jonathan Fanene as free agents this offseason. They love rotation on the defensive line and those two were key parts of that rotation. They’ll be replaced by the mediocre Jamaal Anderson and Devon Still, a 2nd round rookie playing out of position. With Dunlap miss this game, that means that Anderson will have to will the top reserve behind Michael Johnson and Robert Geathers, two decent, but unspectacular players.
Dunlap was spectacular last year. In fact, was one of the best pass rushers in the league last year. Dunlap managed 5 sacks, 13 quarterback hits, and 29 quarterback pressures, on 302 pass rush snaps, a pass rush rate of 15.6%. Given their troubles in the secondary, the Bengals have to get pass rush to have any chance of stopping the Ravens’ passing attack, but I don’t think that will happen.
Meanwhile, Bernard Scott’s absence means that BenJarvus Green-Ellis will have the carry the load against Baltimore’s stout run defense. BJGE is good at running through holes and not fumbling, but he averaged just 3.7 YPC last year and ranked just 61st out of 67 eligible backs in yards after contact per carry with 2.0. That was in New England, with Tom Brady making life easy for the running backs. Andy Dalton is not Tom Brady, so BJGE will find very little running room, especially with the Bengals missing two starting interior offensive lineman against a great run defense like the Bengals’. The Bengals will have a lot of trouble running the ball this week.
All of these injuries definitely hurt for a Bengals team that didn’t beat a single playoff team last year (0-8, including playoffs). Andy Dalton regressed as last season went on and especially struggled against playoff teams and that regression appeared to continue during the preseason. Against a Baltimore team that beat them twice last year, en route to 12 victories, they’re going to have a tough time. The Ravens also were 9-0 last year at home in Baltimore, where this game is played, including playoffs.