The hits just keep coming for the Cincinnati Bengals.
They already are missing their best wideout, and now they will be down another one, as John Ross went on injured reserve Wednesday. Seven-time Pro Bowler A.J. Green remains out with an ankle injury and is not expected to play Sunday against Arizona.
Ross, a third-year player, suffered a sternoclavicular injury during Monday’s 27-3 loss at Pittsburgh. The SC joint is where the clavicle and sternum meet. He had played in all four games for the Bengals this season, leading the team with 16 receptions for 328 yards and three touchdowns after missing the preseason because of hamstring issues.
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“Tough news for him,” coach Zac Taylor said. “He really worked hard to come back from injury during training camp. He was playing well, so it’s tough to see a guy go through that when he’s fought through this before. We’ll be ready for him to get back when he heals up.”
Cincinnati is looking to bounce back from an 0-4 start Sunday when it hosts the also winless Arizona Cardinals (0-3-1) at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals started the season with a career passing day for quarterback Andy Dalton, and the offense has gradually gone downhill since then.
Getting back on track will be difficult without two of its biggest weapons and an offensive line that allowed eight sacks and 12 quarterback pressures Monday, but Taylor said the Bengals just have to find ways to work through the adversity.
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“You’ve got to be creative with your schemes to make sure they are accountable all the way down the field, and certainly we’ve got guys that really need to step up,” Taylor said. “Alex Erickson, Damion Willis, we’ll promote Stanley Morgan Jr. and he’ll be active this week — we feel like we’ve got a good core of guys in there. They all know what to do. They got some reps, and we are going to be counting on those guys to step up.”
Cincinnati is averaging 306.5 yards of offense through four games, which ranks 27th of 32 teams, and is among the bottom three in points scored (14.2) per game. Dalton threw for 418 yards and two touchdowns on 35-of-51 passing in a 21-20 loss at Seattle to open the season, and Ross accounted for 158 yards on seven receptions and both of those touchdown catches.
Ross has made up 26 percent of the total yards this season and has half of the team’s touchdowns.
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“You hate it for him, you hate it for this team, a guy that was progressing and was one of our key players,” Dalton said. “It’s unfortunate it happens in this game, and it just shows that other guys are going to have to step up.”
The Bengals signed rookie Morgan from the practice squad to fill Ross’ place on the roster. Ross’ injury is expected to be a six- to eight-week recovery but the earliest he would be eligible to return is Week 13 when the Bengals play host to the Jets on Dec. 1.
Morgan, a college free agent signee out of the University of Nebraska, set school records for career receptions (189) and receiving yards (2,747) in four seasons with the Cornhuskers. This preseason for the Bengals, he played in two games and totaled seven receptions for 73 yards and a touchdown.
“Stanley brings a good attitude,” Dalton said. “He’s one of those guys who is really competitive and brings a different kind of energy that’s really good and positive. I’m happy for him and happy he’s getting an opportunity and we’ll see how we can fit him into the mix.”
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The Bengals now have three receivers (Morgan, Willis and Auden Tate) on the roster with 11 games of NFL experience or less. Taylor said the offense may need to utilize the tight ends or running backs more in the passing game than in previous games to overcome the inexperience of the wide receivers’ unit.
“I certainly think we’ve got a lot of players we believe in on offense at all those positions, talking about running back, tight end, receiver, so we need to find ways to maximize their abilities and put them in good position,” Taylor said. “We will look at the full scope of it and figure out how to put the best five eligibles out there to give us some of those chances.”
Meanwhile, Green remains “week-to-week,” according to Taylor, who downplayed a report that said he is at least two weeks away from returning. Green has done some rehab work but hasn’t yet practiced with the full squad.
“We talk every day with our trainers and there’s been no deadline or set number of weeks that it’s going to happen,” Taylor said. “He’s continuing to rehab right now, so that (report) didn’t come from me.”
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