The pin in Marvin Jones' foot gives receivers like Cobi Hamilton a chance to expand their roles.
WEST CARROLLTON, OH - The big injury has finally hit the Bengals this preseason when they revealed Monday that wide receiver Marvin Jones had a pin put in his fifth metatarsal, indicating some kind of fracture that head coach Marvin Lewis says will keep him out "a few weeks."
That would indicate the injury isn't as serious as the one suffered by wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, the man that replaces Jones in the starting lineup. Sanu had a similar injury with five weeks left in the 2012 season and was lost for the year and he didn't play in the postseason.
The best early guess is he returns for the fourth game of the year against New England Oct. 5 after the Sept. 28 bye week.
It's the long bone on the outside of the foot that connects to the little toe and down through the years Bengals like right tackle Andre Smith and former cornerback Johnathan Joseph have come back from the injury fine.
But how long is it going to take? Think New England in the Sunday night game. Lewis said he anticipates Jones making the Opening Day roster and won't be on a list, indicating they can carry him for a few weeks.
The news broke when Lewis answered a question about his team's health while addressing the West Carrollton High School football team before the Bengals took the field for a Monday evening practice in its stadium.
It's unclear how or when Jones suffered the injury during Saturday's practice. After practicing during the spring and attending Andy Dalton's July 7-8 passing camp, Jones arrived at training camp with what he said was a nagging ankle problem that just needed rest. He practiced for the first time last week and did team drills for the first time Saturday.
Things could get complicated if the injuries pile up. If that happens, they could put Jones on injured reserve and recall him after eight weeks and seven games. In order to do that, he would have to be on the final 53-man roster on Aug. 30. Then they would have to designate him Sept. 2. He's not eligible to start the season on the physically unable to perform list because he came off the PUP list in training camp.
On paper, it's a difficult injury to deal with because of his burst opposite the speedy A.J. Green. With 10 touchdowns last year, Jones teamed with Green to become the first Bengals receiving duo to have double-digit touchdowns.
The Bengals are also going to miss Jones' penchant for the big catch. Last year profootballfocus.com rated him the fifth best receiver in the NFL in two categories, quarterback rating for his targets and the percentage of deep balls he caught.
But for new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, its business as usual since Jones has practiced in 11-on-11 just once. Now it's a casting call to see who steps up behind Green and Sanu. And it just so happens Sanu has been the Player of Camp so far.
"We all have to make up for what he gives us. I have to do more," Sanu said.
The word is that if Sanu had not gone on injured reserve back in 2012, he may have been able to play in the Wild Card Game, which came five weeks after his broken fifth metatarsal.
"I felt good," Sanu said. "But who's to know?"
Jackson certainly has options. And he says the injury won't cut down on his use of three-receiver sets. The conventional wisdom is that Sanu continues to go to the slot in three receivers and that they'll do what they've been doing without Jones and keep rolling through Brandon Tate, Cobi Hamilton, Dane Sanzenbacher, and seventh-rounder James Wright on the other side until someone emerges.
"I'm not losing any sleep about it. I'd love to have him back. We've got to keep moving," Jackson said after Monday's workout. "Sanu's been (No.) two. I know everyone says Marvin is two, but I can't say that because he hasn't been out there. Sanu is two, so we'll find out who the third is. We'll do whatever it takes to keep our passing game going."
But there are other combinations at play. Jackson doesn't always have to put Sanu in the slot because he's got two tight ends (Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert), and running back (Giovani Bernard) that can also play the slot. So can Sanzenbacher. So can Green.
Tate and Sanzenbacher have had nice camps. Hamilton has been brilliant one day and prone to drops the next.
"I don't look at it like that," Jackson said of slot players and outside receivers. "The best guys are going to play."
PLAYER OF THE DAY: Pro Bowl left tackle Andrew Whitworth. After straining his calf in the sprints of the conditioning test the day before camp opened July 22, Whitworth played his first 11-on-11 snap of the year Monday. (Marshall Newhouse moved from left tackle to right tackle.)
"I'm excited. I felt like they let me out on the playground with the other kids," Whitworth said. "I felt great coming into camp and I just tweaked my calf. They weren't going to let me do anything until I didn't feel anything and now I don't. I feel great."
As for playing against the Jets 7 p.m. Saturday at Paul Brown Stadium, Whitworth said, "That's up to Marvin. It's always his call and his timetable."
Jackson always loves to see his linemen migrate back. He noticed right tackle Andre Smith is not dressed, but he's up and around and out of the house going through the concussion protocol. Jackson wants his guy together as soon as possible in a game.
"We're getting the animals back. We hope to get Andre back soon,' Jackson said. "It's important. These guys feel off each other and feed off each other and following Andy's (Dalton) leads."
PLAY OF THE DAY: Take your pick in this shoulder pad practice. In a rare sight, rookie fullback Nikita Whitlock leveled Pro Bowl linebacker Vontaze Burfict and drove him off his feet. Then, on the next snap, Burfict popped running back James Wilder in the chest to break up a pass. Wilder went down in a heap, the wind no doubt knocked out of him, but he got back up in a couple of minutes.
Asked if it was a coincidence those two plays came back-to-back, Whitlock said, "Maybe not. Maybe not."
QUOTE OF THE DAY: The 5-10, 250-pound Whitlock is the former ACC first-team nose tackle looking to convert to fullback. He'll probably have to learn the rest of the way on the practice squad, but he's showing guts and brains:
"Vontaze brings the bang. Sometimes you get him, sometimes you don't. I think he just didn't see me. It definitely surprised me. He usually brings it to me."
SLANTS AND SCREENS: When the Bengals took the new turf field Monday in sunshine after a downpour before a crowd of about 7,000, defensive linemen Domata Peko (concussion) and Wallace Gilberry (knee) weren't practicing...Backup quarterback Jason Campbell (bruised throwing arm) was also out for a second straight day. Also out were right tackle Andre Smith (concussion) and linebacker Sean Porter (knee)...Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis (illness) was also out...
Linebacker J.K. Schaffer returned limited after two weeks in the protocol and is full go Tuesday...
It doesn't look like Campbell is going to play Saturday, but Jackson said it's too early to make that call. What he does know is he'll have Andy Dalton and Matt Scott at quarterback. While the trainers make the call on Campbell, Jackson still has to make the call on Tyler Wilson if he's ready with the playbook and he'll do that at the end of the week. Wilson took his first snap as a Bengal Monday while reading the cards for the Jets offense in order to prepare the defense...
Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick left late in practice with ice on his hip...