The status of the Bengals' starting right guard looked to be in some doubt when rookie D'Ante Smith wasn't on the field at the beginning of Thursday's practice.
Smith, who was supposed to make his first NFL start Sunday (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 19) in Detroit, apparently hurt his knee early in Wednesday's practice and was listed as limited on the day's injury report.
The Bengals have been drilled at right guard. Opening Day veteran starter Xavier Su'a-Filo hurt his knee in the second game and is expected off injured reserve before the Oct. 31 road game against the Jets. That paved the way for second-rounder Jackson Carman, who drew good reviews starting the last three games before going on the COVID list Monday.
Now Smith apparently has a knee injury. If he can't go Sunday, Bengals head coach Zac Taylor has some options. He could kick right tackle Riley Reiff inside to guard and go with Isaiah Prince at right tackle. Prince has played well in a six-man O-line alignment they are using more and more and he pass blocked very well in the preseason.
Or Taylor could put back-up tackle Fred Johnson at right guard as he did one game last year, but they abandoned that idea after a half and have kept Johnson at tackle ever since.
Or, they could go with another rookie in sixth-rounder Trey Hill, their backup center out of Georgia.
If Smith or Hill starts Sunday, Elias says it's the first time in 25 years the Bengals have started rookies at the same position on the offensive line since guards Ken Blackman and Rod Jones.
SLANTS AND SCREENS: Running back Joe Mixon (ankle), who went limited Wednesday, didn't dress Thursday. But he was out on the field and the way he was bouncing around it looked like it may be a rest day. They also could have been doing it to get reps for the two backs expected to take work behind Mixon in Detroit with No. 2 Samaje Perine on the COVID list. Rookie Chris Evans, the No. 3 back, and Trayveon Williams, expected to get promoted from the practice squad, have yet to carry the ball this year.
FRUSTRATION: Not only are the 0-5 wouldhaveshouldhavecouldhave 3-2 Lions frustrated and angry, so are the 3-2 Bengals, as close to 4-1 as Evan McPherson's 57-yard field goal attempt that hit the right upright.
"It was a tough one to shake. Talking to guys on the team, it was a tough on," said defensive end Sam Hubbard before Wednesday's practice. "Really felt that loss because we wanted it so bad and felt like we had it. Being able to bounce back and get that taste out of our mouth is the only opportunity we want. Excited to put that in the past."
SMALL WORLD: If Lions left tackle Taylor Decker comes off injured reserve, rookie Penei Sewell goes back to right tackle. The man so many wanted the Bengals to take with the fifth pick hasn't had it easy on the left side in place of Decker. According to Pro Football Focus, Sewell has already allowed four sacks and 13 pressures.
Meanwhile, the guy the Bengals did pick, wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase, went out to Thursday's practice as the winner of the Pepsi Zero Rookie of the Week for the second time this season.
"Very athletic, very big. Great hands, great feet. You can tell why he was drafted so high," Hubbard said. "That's a tough job with the injury to Taylor. I see a player who plays extremely hard and fights every snap. He's had some rookie mistakes, but comes back next snap trying to make his will on his opponent. He's a good player and will be a great player for a long time."
THE VOICE: Before Thursday's practice offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said the state of quarterback Joe Burrow's voice won't prevent them from going no huddle at Ford Field.
"I don't think we'll have any issue at all. We'll be able to communicate at the line of scrimmage as we always do," Callahan sad. "I don't know what a bruised throat feels like. I haven't had one so I can't speak to his experience with it. Everything seems to be tracking to be just fine on Sunday and operate as normal.
"It's doctor's orders to take it easy on speaking and projecting. But everything's been good so far. We've been in the silent cadence mode for this week, because we're on the road and particularly in an indoor stadium that having been there before, spent a lot of games there, it does get loud at times in that stadium, so it's all silent count anyway. Communication has been fine in the huddle, everything's tracking like we should have no problems on Sunday."
The preparation continues ahead of the Week 6 clash against the Detroit Lions. Check out the top images of the Bengals at practice.