Bengals not expecting injured lineman Cappa to play Sunday

Credit: Jeff Dean

Credit: Jeff Dean

CINCINNATI — Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor said it would be “tough” for right guard Alex Cappa to play this week after injuring his left ankle Sunday, but the team is seeking more information about the severity of his injury.

Losing Cappa for any amount of time is concerning, especially after the team already has had to replace right tackle La’el Collins following an ACL tear at New England in Week 16. The Bengals are anticipating Max Scharping will start in Cappa’s place Sunday night when the Bengals face the Baltimore Ravens in a Wild Card playoff game at Paycor Stadium.

Cappa had to be helped off the field Sunday in a 27-16 win over Baltimore in the regular-season finale after a Ravens defender rolled up on his left leg, similar to the way Collins injured his left knee. He could be seen in the locker room after the game moving around on a scooter with his leg propped up to keep weight off his ankle.

“He’s really been playing unbelievable all year,” Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow said of Cappa on Sunday night. “No. 1, Cappa’s a guy you love to be around, a great locker room guy. No. 2, (he’s an) unbelievable player — smart, physical, tough — everything you’d ask for in an interior guy. I don’t know the severity of the injury, but I have a lot of confidence in the guys behind him. Max (Scharping) has played a lot of football, and he knows his stuff. He’s going to have to step up but we have all the faith in the world in him.”

The Bengals, in the most important part of the season, have lost the right side of the offensive line they rebuilt after Joe Burrow was sacked 70 times last season.

After a slow start to the season, allowing 13 sacks over the first two games, the offensive line became a key part of the team’s success. Over the last 14 games, while the Bengals went 12-2, Burrow has taken an average of just two sacks per game. And up until Collins’ injury, Cincinnati had not seen any changes all season to its starting offensive line, holding the NFL’s longest streak for most consecutive games with the same starting five up front.

Center Ted Karras said Cappa deserved more credit for that success than he’s received.

“I’ve gotten a lot of credit this year and I just want to make it clear that Alex Cappa is the singular force that drives this O-line,” Karras said. “It’s like having another center on the field. He’s my No. 1 confidant and he’s extremely talented. My heart broke when that happened. I just want to make it clear how much Alex means to this team, this line and this offense. He’s been a huge contributor and a big factor in our success this season.”

Offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said losing Cappa is unfortunate, but that’s why the Bengals signed Scharping.

Scharping was one of three waiver wire pickups the Bengals made after final roster cuts in September. He appeared in 16 total snaps on offense in two games prior to Sunday when he played the final 14 snaps after Cappa’s injury. A fourth-year player out of Northern Illinois University, Scharping was a second-round draft pick of Houston in 2019 and had played in 48 games with 33 starts for the Texans in his three seasons there.

The Bengals last year saw several changes at right guard over the course of the season, mainly swapping then-rookie Jackson Carman and Hakeem Adeniji, who is now playing right tackle in Collins’ spot. Scharping gave the team an experienced backup, something it lacked in 2021.

“We’ve got a lot of faith in Max (Scharping), that’s why we signed him at the roster cutdown,” Callahan said. “He’s been here all season and he did a nice job in the game, seeing him play live action for the first time, which is good. We felt like that’s why we brought him in, that’s why we paid a little bit of money for him too, to bring him in. That’s an insurance policy you hope to not have to use, but here we are. If he’s got to play, then he’s got to play, and we’re expecting him to play well.”

Callahan said he came away “feeling pretty good” about how Adeniji played Sunday in his first full game as the starting right tackle, but it won’t be surprising now if the Ravens try to attack that side of the line even more in their playoff rematch.

Cincinnati was able to help Adeniji at times in Sunday’s game by adding an extra tackle on that side of the line with Jackson Carman playing four snaps in that role, but there isn’t a way to help an interior lineman in that same way.

“You just practice, you put the stuff in and you do your best to put guys in position to have success,” Callahan said. “What that looks like, we’ll kind of determine as the week goes along. They’ve all been getting reps in all the things that we do and how we run them. At this point in the year, it’s hard to introduce all kinds of shiny new things that are really going to change who you are. We’re still going to be who we are as an offense and run a lot of the things that we’ve run and have had success with over the course of the season. You’re mindful of any new lineup changes, that goes for all positions, and you’re trying to make sure you’re doing the right things by them. But at the same time, we’ve got to go find a way to win three games to get to the Super Bowl. We’re going to do the things we’ve done all year to try to get there.”


Ravens at Bengals, 8:15 p.m., NBC, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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