Bengals head coach Zac Taylor doesn't have a timeline for the return of No. 1 cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt with a sprained ankle that has knocked him out of his second straight game.
Which means cornerback Chidobe Awuzie is going to be needed to take the bulk of the snaps like he was last week when the Bengals face the Jaguars' high-flying offense Monday night (8:15-Cincinnati's Channel 9, ESPN).
Taylor-Britt suffered the injury during Friday's practice at the IEL Indoor Facility when they were trying to figure out if he could come back from the quad injury he absorbed Nov. 16 in Baltimore.
Awuzie is trying to work his game back to when he had the title of No. 1 corner before he tore his ACL 13 months ago. He also has been dealing with a back issue this season, but last week his 69 snaps were the most he's played since he took all 72 in the Oct. 16, 2022 win in New Orleans last year.
"Chido finished the game, which is great," said defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo this week. "It's a great sign for his knee, for him. Great sign for him just mentally to say, hey, 'I got to finish the game. I did well.' It's just another step to him getting back to 100%."
There could be a practice squad elevation (Allan George? Sidney Jones IV?) with rookie DJ Ivey also a backup as all hands are on deck on the corner to stop one of the NFL's hottest down-field offenses. Anarumo is looking to settle down a defense that has allowed 17 passes of at least 20 yards in the last three weeks.
According to Next Gen Stats, Jags quarterback Trevor Lawrence has a career-high passer rating of 98.6 on throws of 10-plus air yards and more career-highs with 19 completions for 583 yards and a 123.7 rating on throws of 20-plus air yards. Plus, the Jags have different receiving leaders in receptions (tight end Evan Engram), receiving yards (wide receiver Christian Kirk), and receiving touchdowns (wide receiver Calvin Ridley). The Jaguars and Vikings are the only teams with three players with at least 500 yards.
"Let's start with the speed factor of it. All of their receivers can really go. Those guys can really fly," Anarumo said of Ridley, Kirk, and Zay Jones. "And then, oh, by the way, Evan Engram can really roll. And the back (Travis Etienne) is fast and tough. The quarterback is a really, really good athlete that can hurt you with his arm and his legs.
"There's a reason why they've won all these (eight) games. A big part of it is what they can do on offense … (Lawrence) can make some really strong arm throws. He just threw a darn 22-yard comeback. Not a lot of guys who can do that. And he was on the move to do it against Indianapolis and he can get himself out of trouble with his legs. He's really superior athlete. I think he's a big, big guy. We had him here a couple of years ago. You saw that on display. His athleticism where he can get out of the pocket and scramble."
The Bengals won that one at Paycor Stadium, 24-21, on Sept. 30, 2021 on a Thursday night quarterback Joe Burrow racked up his first career fourth-quarter comeback victory complete with a game-winning drive.
RUNAWAY THOUGHTS: The Bengals are looking to reverse a season-long trend, where at 75.8 yards per game, via NFL stats, they're on pace to have their fewest rushing average per game ever. Running back Joe Mixon is also trying to break the longest skein of his career with 16 straight games without a 100-yard game.
The Bengals didn't plan to give it to Mixon only eight times for 25 yards (his lowest for both since 2019) last week against Pittsburgh. But they also didn't plan to have just 41 plays and a 2.0 rush average. It's been an emphasis this week against a Jags defense ranked fourth against the run.
"They play a ton of D-linemen. They have a lot of good players up front," said Bengals center Ted Karras. "We'll have our work cut out for us and we need to go down there and show we can run the ball. We're not blocking very well. What are you going to do (keep running it)?
"You need all 11 guys doing the right thing to (go) on offense and we didn't have that in the Steelers game. The results speak for themselves. We're always going to be a pass-first mentality with No. 9 (Burrow). But we need to tailor our offense to have success with who is ever at the point. We need to execute."
Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said they need to run it more, but they're also not going to keep banging their heads against a wall even if they can't get any room for backup quarterback Jake Browning.
"I have not been one that's officially subscribed to the theory that the more times you run it, the better it gets," Callahan said this week. "I don't know that that's always the case, but there's definitely times where you need to really run the ball and we haven't been able to run it with effectiveness that we're going to need to.
"We have to run the ball better and there's not really any way to sugarcoat it or say it differently. Certainly having (41 plays) is a factor. Being two for ten on third down is a factor in not being able to run the ball more and then trying to play from behind at the end of the game is a factor. You're in a four-minute drill at the end of a game, you're going to get six to eight more attempts on top of that just by nature trying to get down in the game on the clock. So not really an excuse. That's how the game played out. And then we've got to find a way to run the ball more and better to help Jake."
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