The Ja’Marr Chase Injury Will Test the Cincinnati Bengals Depth

The Ja'Marr Chase Injury Will Test This Bengals Team

After tests showed a hip fracture, the Ja’Marr Chase injury will leave his Cincinnati Bengals without his services for a few weeks. The good news is that his injury does not require surgery nor is it career-threatening as was the case for Bo Jackson or Zach Miller. Chase was on pace, yet again, to break records in an offense that is just starting to heat up.

It goes without saying that the Ja’Marr Chase injury is going to require others to step up. Additionally, this comes at a bad time with injuries on the defensive side of the ball. Even if the next few weeks are “easier,” Cincinnati has already dropped a couple of games to seemingly lesser opponents. With one of the best in the game gone, the margin for error shrinks.

The Cincinnati Bengals Depth Will be Key Against the Browns After the Ja’Marr Chase Injury

No Ja’Marr Chase, No Problem?

He’s been in the league just one year but when he doesn’t suit up on Monday Night Football, it’ll be the first time Chase misses a start in his young career. The last time Joe Burrow played in a football game without Ja’Marr Chase was that fateful night in FexEx Field on November 22, 2020. Since then, Chase has been the favorite target of his old LSU teammate.

If there is to be a silver lining it’s that this Bengals trio of receivers is the best in the NFL. Losing the largest piece hurts, but Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd are a formidable duo in their own right, as we saw in 2020. As a rookie, Higgins was on pace to break the single-season receiving mark before his own injury. Meanwhile, Boyd is the grizzled veteran and one of the best receivers to play for the Bengals (and that’s actually saying a lot).

Neither Higgins nor Boyd is the same as Chase but each possesses their own skillset. Higgins is a big-bodied receiver who can Moss any member of any secondary when given the chance. If not, he’s adept at his route tree and finding soft spots in the defense. Boyd is still an elite slot threat as well, as we saw last week when he had a career day.

The difference will be further down the line. It’s already too late to make a trade for a wide receiver that will affect MNF, so Cincinnati will ask a lot from guys like Mike Thomas, Stanley Morgan, and others further down the depth chart. It’s likely that Thomas is the one to step in as the Chase replacement outside; 79% of Thomas’ snaps in his career came as the outside receiver.

The pressure is on for the franchise to sign a free agent at the very least to help with the depth. Even if they don’t the pecking order will likely be Higgins, Boyd, Hayden Hurst, Joe Mixon, and Thomas. That’s a massive hole with the Ja’Marr Chase injury but if there’s anyone to overcome, it’s Joe Burrow.

Slowing Down Nick Chubb Without A Piece is Easier Said Than Done

The offense is not alone in missing a massive piece. Where the offense loses its best player, the defense is continuing to deal with the loss of its best player, D.J. Reader.

The Bengals defense has been great. The area where they were best out of the gate was in defending against the run. In the three weeks with Reader anchoring the defensive line, the defense allowed 86 yards per game at a meager 3.74 yards per carry. In the four games since? 144 yards per game, five yards per carry.

Reader was playing at a high level, though if one only looked at box scores, it would not appear so. His presence in the middle of the line dictates what opposing offenses can do and opens the game up for linebackers Logan Wilson and Germain Pratt. Even then, this defense has yet to allow a second-half touchdown this year.

If there is a defensive equivalent to the Ja’Marr Chase injury and its impact, it’s losing Reader. This week, the Bengals defense has its stiffest test in terms of stopping an elite rushing attack. Nick Chubb is one of, if not the best running back in the NFL and continues to dominate behind one of the best offensive lines in the league. B.J. Hill has stepped up since the usual Reader backup, Josh Tupou, has also been battling an injury. Plus, waiver wire addition, Jay Tufele, is starting to impress.

Against this rushing attack, Hill, Tufele, Tyler Shelvin, and even Sam Hubbard will be leaned upon to limit what Chubb can do. Thankfully, Logan Wilson will be back. Wilson has been having a career year and getting him back will absolutely give the Bengals defense a lift.

All of this PLUS the fact Trey Hendrickson and Eli Apple did not practice at all this week. The Bengals will likely lean on a couple of young talents in Joseph Ossai and Cam Taylor-Britt this weekend.

Who Dey Gonna Step Up and Deliver?

Despite holding a 51-46 lead in the all-time series and experiencing more success of late, the Bengals have lost each of the last four and seven of the last eight against their rivals up I-71. Neither 2022 season is going as planned but even moreseo in Cleveland. A loss on Monday Night may spell doom for a few playmakers as the trade deadline looms. At the same time, the Bengals are just 4-3 but have gone ofer in their two AFC North matchups after a pair of walk-off field goals.

These next four games will decide whether or not the Bengals continue to be a statistic of yet another disappointing Super Bowl loser. Cleveland. Carolina. Pittsburgh. Tennessee. There are four winnable games lined up over the next five weeks to fully right the ship in time for their collision with Kansas City. The Ja’Marr Chase injury will hamper the Bengals offense but the ability is there to overcome.

Main Image:

Embed from Getty Images