As expected running back Joe Mixon is active for Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers at Paul Brown Stadium and the sense is he's going to try and handle a decent amount of carries despite missing every practice last week with a sprained ankle.
With the Bengals not activating Trayveon Williams from the practice squad and going into the game with just three running backs indicates Mixon is going to get the ball in some fashion. Plus, head coach Zac Taylor has said it's not related to the foot injury that knocked Mixon out of last season's final 10 games.
With both starting cornerbacks healthy for the first time since Oct. 13, 2019, rookie edge rusher Darius Hodge is inactive for the first time. Offensive lineman Fred Johnson, defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin and cornerback Nick McCloud have yet to be active. Wide receiver Mike Thomas (ankle) is out.
TAKING THE BATES: The Bengals not only have their starting cornerbacks on the field, but free safety Jessie Bates III quietly returns after missing the first game of his career against Jacksonville.
Bates' neck injury sent an initial shudder through the club until exams proved negative. Never mind missing games, Bates had played about 99 percent of his career snaps until ten days ago. He hurt his neck in the Sept. 26 win in Pittsburgh, but didn't really get concerned until later. He actually thinks he could have played four days later against the Jags, but everybody played it safe.
"My adrenaline was going, we were whooping Pittsburgh, so I didn't think about the neck as much. But it was definitely scary after the game feeling the stiffness," Bates said before returning to practice last week. "For me, it was scary when I had the hit. I laid there a little bit, finished the game and felt fine. If you do an MRI on any safety in this league on their neck, there will be something that shows there. Especially the day after a game. I really thought I could play on Thursday. I was pushing to play, but the neck is something you can't just go out there and say, 'OK. It's my neck.' And I took it seriously."
View some of the best pregame photos from Paul Brown Stadium as the Bengals host the Green Bay Packers in Week 5.
Bates teams with strong safety Vonn Bell to form one of the NFL's top safety groups. Coming into Sunday's game they are one of only two teams with three safeties rated in Pro Football Focus' top 19. Ricardo Allen (4), Bates (11) and Bell (19) join the Bills in that group. And they also get Allen back Sunday after his three-week stint on injured reserve with a broken arm.
But with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers on the other side with a crew of talented skill players, Bates says everyone on defense is facing their biggest challenge of the young season.
"It'll be a bigger test because on every level, in the wide receiver room, running back room, quarterback, they're all top tier players in this league," Bates said. "That's why it'll be more of challenge for us. Nothing against the team we played before because we have played other Hall of Fame quarterbacks (read Steelers), but it's a big deal. This is a really good offense, very explosive. Excited to see how we can come out."
Paul Dehner, Jr. of The Athletic asked Bates a good one during last week's media session. He wanted to know if Bates could recall the names of the quarterbacks that have thrown him his nine career interceptions.
Talk about a guy not living on his laurels. He had to be prodded to remember that he got Jameis Winston on his one career pick-six. In classic free safety style, he had a better memory of the ones he dropped.
"Ryan Tannehil two times, Joe Flacco was my first one, Derek Carr," Bates said. "Should have had Big Ben two times but I dropped them. Philip Rivers. Yeah, I got Jameis Winston. That's all I can think of."
There is also Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield and Alex Smith. That's a Super Bowl MVP in Flacco, an NFL MVP in Jackson and a possible Hall of Famer in Rivers. Bates knows Rodgers is going to the Hall.
"We always have conversations with my family and friends," Bates said. "If I get an interception, I got to walk up to him and say, hey, can I get your autograph? Hopefully I can make that happen.
"He's obviously one of the best players that we've ever seen in this league."
Bates would love to add one of the greats to his list.
"That should be anybody's goal as a safety in this league," Bates said. "There are a bunch of really good quarterbacks, that's something I look forward to."