Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor said Jonah Williams “dodged a bullet” with his right knee injury not requiring surgery, but he’s likely done for the season.
The Bengals’ left tackle was placed on injured reserve Wednesday for the second time in 2020 after he needed carted off in the fourth quarter of the loss at Miami on Sunday. In a corresponding move, they activated cornerback Darius Phillips one week after he was cleared from a groin injury to return to practice.
Williams’ injury isn’t as serious as it could have been, according to Taylor; however, he is out a minimum of three weeks on IR and with only four remaining, it’s uncertain if the team would bring him back for one game.
“It’s just going to be a couple week deal, but unfortunately we only have a couple weeks left so it remains to be seen if he will be back for that last game,” Taylor said. “In some senses we were able to dodge a bullet there.”
The Bengals (2-9-1) are preparing to face the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday in Andy Dalton’s return to Cincinnati for the first time as an opposing player, and once again, it’s back to shuffling things around on the offensive line.
Williams missed his entire rookie season because of a torn labrum he injured during the team’s offseason workouts. He played 100 percent of the snaps at left tackle through the first six games of this season before suffering a stinger in Week 7 against Cleveland, causing him to miss two games.
“Obviously a situation that happened with him and just coming off an injury that he had last year as well,” running back Giovani Bernard said. “It’s just kind of tough for him, and we all feel for him, and it’s just kind of been one of those years where you know we’ve had these injuries and we just hate to see one of our teammates go down, no matter who it is, but obviously he’s a player who comes into work every single day, is ready to work and he’ll be missed for sure.”
According to Taylor, rookie Hakeem Adeniji will be getting another shot at left tackle after the sixth-round draft pick previously filled in there when Williams was out before.
But, there’s no question there is a dropoff with Williams gone. ProFootballFocus.com graded Williams at a 70.1 and allowed three sacks in 634 snaps. Adeniji, who has allowed four sacks in 218 offensive snaps, grades at 55.1.
“Jonah is a smart guy,” Bernard said. “He doesn’t really make too many errors. Obviously, he’s in his playbook, he understands what things need to be done, what calls have to be relayed to everyone else. He just does a good job of understanding what Trey is trying to get done with the offensive line. He’s really been doing a good job, and I think one of the things is last year, his rookie year, he didn’t really have the opportunity to play at all. And then obviously not being able to fully dive in this year. … Obviously, he’s a player we want out there, we need out there.”
Taylor said there are still some other things to sort out on the offensive line, which gave up six sacks last week – one of which was hard enough to knock the wind out of quarterback Brandon Allen. Ryan Finley finished the game and took one sack and threw an interception.
The Bengals have been moving guys around the line all season to account for injuries with Quinton Spain playing both guard spots and right tackle at one point, and right guard Xavier Su’a-Filo now back in the mix after coming in when left guard Michael Jordan got pulled for the final drive.
Backup right tackle Fred Johnson has been inactive for a few weeks now but also could be available if Adeniji struggles.
“It’s just tricky, you got eight guys up,” Taylor said. “Typically for us it’s been a center or a guard and a tackle. And Hakeem’s been that tackle the last couple of weeks, but that doesn’t mean that we’ve been disappointed with Fred, it’s just the way that it’s worked out.”
Keeping the quarterback upright is something that has to be better, Taylor said.
But against Dallas, the Bengals will be focused on getting the running game going and that should help. They managed just 40 yards on the ground at Miami, after it seemed like Taylor was trying to utilize Bernard early. Joe Mixon is eligible to return from injured reserve this week, but while Taylor said it’s possible Mixon could play again this season, that won’t be this week.
The Cowboys rank last in run defense, allowing 156.4 yards per game.
“I think every week it’s emphasized to get the run game going,” Allen said. “It doesn’t matter what the defense is that we’re going against. I think to win this league, you need a run game and the pass game to compliment. So, each week I think we put together a great plan to get the game going and I think early in the game last week we had a few pretty good runs, 9-10 yarders and we’re just going to sustain that throughout the course of the whole game.”
Cowboys at Bengals, 1 p.m., Fox, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7
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