Injured Bengals rookie Ossai will miss substantial time

Taylor wouldn’t confirm whether defensive end’s injury is season-ending.

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor confirmed rookie defensive end Joseph Ossai is being evaluated for more than just a wrist injury but wouldn’t say if reports are accurate that he tore his meniscus and is out for the year.

Regardless of the severity of Ossai’s injury, the depth at defensive end continues to be a concern as the Bengals start really keying in on the back end of the roster, as well as the starting guard positions, over the next week.

The last round of cuts need to be made Aug. 31, two days after the preseason finale Sunday against Miami, and the Bengals already have brought in another option at end with the signing of free agent Noah Spence on Sunday. It’s clear Ossai, who sacked Tom Brady and had five quarterback pressures in the preseason opener, at least will miss substantial time.

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“It is a knee,” Taylor said Sunday, a full eight days after Ossai’s injury. “It’s not just a wrist. So, it is a knee issue, but again we do not have all the information yet so it would not be wise of me to make any statements on that.”

Another round of cuts were announced Sunday with the team terminating the contract of veteran safety Kavon Frazier and waiving defensive tackle Freedom Akinmoladun, quarterback Eric Dungey, center Lamont Gaillard and tight end Cheyenne O’Grady.

Spence, a fifth-year player who was originally a second-round draft pick for Tampa Bay, spent the 2016-2018 seasons with the Buccaneers before later joining Washington (2019) and New Orleans (2019-20). He was released by the Saints on Aug. 16 and now brings 41 career games of experience to Cincinnati, where he could be utilized in one of the rotational roles.

Spence participated in practice Sunday, also helping fill a depth need with rookie defensive end Cam Sample considered day-to-day after suffering a shoulder injury Friday at Washington. Taylor said he doesn’t have a good number to put on how much of the 53-man roster already is set in his mind.

“You want to give these guys this last week of opportunities,” Taylor said. “You never know. Guys could show up this game where it’s hard to say no to them on the roster. We don’t have to make those decisions until the following Tuesday. We’ll utilize this next week of practice and this game to fully evaluate the roster and then make the decision.”

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Taylor said he also would like to have the starting offensive line set by the end of the Miami game because the team won’t learn much more after that and it would be beneficial to have a near full two weeks of those guys working together in practice. Quinton Spain and Xavier Su’a-Filo started Friday and it seems to be leaning in their favor to win the guard spots, but the starters Sunday against Miami might not necessarily be indicative of who wins the job.

“I think there’s been a lot of progress made there and it’s been not just maybe two guys take this thing and run with it because we have seen that,” Taylor said. “Those two veterans played well in the game. There were good things to build off with them. The young guys have showed progress. It hasn’t been that no one’s taken ahold of it. I think there’s been progress from everyone involved in the battle. That’s encouraging. We still have seven more days here to really formulate what our final plan is going to be and we plan to utilize it. There’s no reason not to. But again, I did think that the two veterans that went in there showed well. We saw some stuff from Jackson (Carman) and from Mike (Jordan) and of course D’Ante (Smith) will be back in the mix this week. I think they have a lot of potential.”

Taylor said he’s looking for more consistency from the rookies in general, and that applies to Ja’Marr Chase as he continues to try to work on avoiding drops like the three he had on three targets Friday.

The No. 5 overall draft pick shows progress in other areas of his game in practices and Chase’s struggles in training camp and Friday could be a good wake-up call.

“Sometimes you don’t want that (drops) to happen, because we wanted to win the game, we wanted him to convert those third downs, but it’s good for a guy to say, ‘Hey, this is tough. This is real NFL, this is going against a real defense and I’ve got to make these plays,’” Taylor said. “And again, he’s shown well in a lot of the practices. Expectations are high for him.”

Taylor still hasn’t decided if Joe Burrow and Trey Hopkins – the two offensive players coming off ACL tears in 2020 – will get snaps against Miami. Both were held out of the first two preseason games as a precaution and don’t necessarily need to play to be ready for the opener.

While it’s been clear Burrow will start Week 1, Taylor said Hopkins also remains on track to play in the opener Sept. 12 against Minnesota.

“They’ve shown us enough to know that they’re gonna be ready to play,” Taylor said. “It’s just a matter of what do we wanna do? Do we want to put those guys out there in this game in a preseason game or just give them more rest and get them ready for the Minnesota game? We’ll take a couple more days before we make that decision since we’ve got a week here before that game. But again, they’ve shown me everything on their end that they’re capable and ready to go. It’s just up to coaches to make that decision.”

SUNDAY’S GAME

Dolphins at Bengals, 4 p.m., CBS, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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