CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Bengals will officially begin their season without Vontaze Burfict or Adam Jones. Burfict will sit out three games after the league suspended him for violations of player safety, while Jones will miss the season opener on a suspension related to the personal conduct policy.
The Bengals will turn to a familiar face to replace Burfict, while the replacement for Jones could be someone new.
Vincent Rey will slide into Burfict’s role, as he has for the last two seasons. Burfict missed the first six games of the 2015 while recovering from microfracture surgery, and the Bengals went 6-0 with Rey in his place. Rey also played very well when replacing Burfict during his three-game suspension last year.
As far as backups go, Rey is as reliable as it gets. Rey might not to be able to match Burfict’s level of play on his best day, but he’ll make few mistakes and he’ll be a quietly strong presence in that role.
There’s a reason the Bengals signed Rey to a three-year extension in 2016, and it wasn’t for his special teams play. They feel they can rely on him in situations like this.
“I’ve been in this position before, we as a team have been in this position before, I’ll be out there, it may be done by a committee of us as linebackers, but we’ll be out there and we’ll know what to do. We’ll line up against (Joe) Flacco or whoever is at quarterback and we’re going to fly around and stop them from scoring.”
Jones’ replacement will either be Darqueze Dennard or William Jackson III. Dennard is entering his fourth season in the Bengals’ system but has yet to live up to his first-round draft status, partially due to injury.
With cornerback Josh Shaw needed to help at safety due to injuries, Dennard is a candidate to man the slot as well. Jackson, a first-round pick in 2016, never played due to injury, but has been very impressive in camp.
Burfict’s and Jones’ suspensions could open up space elsewhere, with undrafted rookie linebackers Hardy Nickerson or Brandon Bell potentially making the team. Cornerback KeiVarae Russell might also benefit from the roster spot opened by Jones’ one-game absence.