Rule No. 1, Who Dey Nation: quarterbacks are the most effective standing up, especially when your starting man under center is entering only his second year in the league. Unfortunately, the task of keeping Andy Dalton upright just got more complicated now that starting center, Kyle Cook could potentially miss the entire regular season due to a foot and ankle injury.
Even when a Green Bay Packer defender rolled onto Cook’s right foot and ankle during the Cincinnati Bengals’ 27-13 loss last Thursday, Cook, who had made 50 consecutive starts for the orange and black, shook it off and powered through the rest of his reps. The following Monday, Cook was surprised to find that instead of spending his day practicing at Paul Brown stadium, he would be receiving precautionary x-rays and an MRI, which would later reveal a more serious injury.
Losing Cook for the long haul is unwelcome news for the Bengals, who already lost their starting left guard, Travelle Wharton to a knee injury in their first preseason matchup against the New York Jets. Head coach, Marvin Lewis inferred after Monday’s practice that the extent of Cook’s injury is still being determined, but that hasn’t stopped the Cincinnati front office from finding a contingency plan.
Various reports suggest that the Bengals are bringing in veteran center, Jeff Faine, who, in 2008, played 16 games for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their then offensive coordinator, Jay Gruden, who now holds the same position in Cincinnati.
The move is somewhat damning of the Bengals’ depth at offensive lineman since a play for Faine would mean that Cook’s current backup, Clint Boling would resume his role at left guard. This could either be because the Bengals are the most confident in Boling at that specific position, or it could mean that they are uneasy about the linemen at the bottom of the depth chart who would have to step in for Boling if he moved to center.
Unfortunately, Cincinnati’s injury woes don’t stop on the offensive side of the ball. The Bengals’ first round pick (and the 17th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft), Dre Kirkpatrick has officially been ruled out of the Bengals’ final preseason matchup against the Indianapolis Colts. Kirkpatrick, who sat out the last two practices, learned that he has tendinitis in his left knee.
Kirkpatrick’s omission from Thursday’s game is the final nail in the coffin for his wish to play at least one down of preseason football before heading into September, when the games matter. Kirkpatrick already trails seasoned veterans, Nate Clements and Leon Hall on the depth chart, so his fight to fulfill his first round potential and snag a starting role may be postponed indefinitely, or at least until the later part of the season.
Even though Kirkpatrick and Cook won’t see the field this week, the NFL still remains a “next man up” league. Even if Faine signs, look for backup rookie center, Trevor Robinson to fill Cook’s shoes while the coaching staff gets Faine up to speed. As for Kirkpatrick, the Bengals will definitely miss him as their secondary tries to slow down the so-far-brilliant arm of Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck Thursday night.
[Update: Today, the Bengals did, in fact, sign Jeff Faine to shore up their depth at center. The particulars of the deal have not been disclosed, but Faine’s signing should be well worth it considering the veteran leadership he will bring to the offensive line. In order to sign Faine, the Bengals had to release WR Justin Hilton who only recorded one reception for 30 yards through the first three preseason games.]