- Coley Harvey, ESPN Staff Writer
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With its group of players on injured reserve, the Cincinnati Bengals nearly have enough to field a full 11-man unit.
Nine players in all have spent time on the season-ending IR list, forcing the Bengals to showcase the depth that many believed they had before the season even began. Specifically on defense, where they have been hardest hit, the Bengals have had to dig deep into their roster to plug in bodies and fill holes, all in an effort of continuing to put some semblance of a quality defense on the field.
As young as they have suddenly gotten on that side of the ball, as lacking in experience as they have been at times, their depth has passed each test with flying colors.
So it stands to reason that now that veteran cornerback Terence Newman is out for possibly the remainder of the regular season, his replacement, Dre Kirkpatrick, will slide right in and perform the same way other replacements have for the Bengals this season.
In addition to Kirkpatrick -- and to a smaller degree, fellow backup corner Brandon Ghee -- the Bengals have been forced to plug in backups for starters all season. Most recently, Vincent Rey has shined at linebacker in place of Rey Maualuga, who was hurt parts of three games. Since Maualuga's return, Rey has still seen significant action. Last Sunday, they split snaps, playing 29 apiece.
On offense, backup tackle Anthony Collins has come in for Pro Bowler Andrew Whitworth, who has moved inside to play left guard for Clint Boling, who tore his ACL two games ago. At right guard, Mike Pollak has come off the bench to fill in the last three games for Kevin Zeitler and his slow-recovering foot injury. There are numerous other stories, and most of them have a similar outcome: The backup hasn't much looked like a backup.
One reason people in Cincinnati are giddy about their team? Because its depth has kept it afloat this season, and even without some of their best players, the Bengals have a legitimate shot at wrapping up the AFC's No. 2 playoff seed.
To get the Wednesday Morning Stripes going, let's take one look at another take on Cincinnati's depth:
Here's Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com's take on how Cincinnati's depth is "pulling rank."
As we've discussed in the past on the ESPN NFL Nation Bengals blog, big-game scenarios and Andy Dalton do not seem to mix. The quarterback hasn't fared well in night games, nor has he played well in division games. Well, he's got both this weekend. If you consider "big games" those that either occur at night, against divisional opponents and in the postseason, Dalton hasn't been very good throughout his career. Using that logic, we found that he is now 8-12 in such contests, while going 20-7 in every other. If Dalton wants to prove he's a big-game quarterback, he'll want to improve to 9-12 in Sunday night's game. The Cincinnati Enquirer's Joe Reedy explored Dalton's big-game play in one of his "Walkthrough" blog posts earlier this week.
Finally, a bit of a feel-good story to close out your Wednesday morning. Also from the Enquirer, here is a story from Paul Dehner Jr. about the shopping spree a group of Bengals players took 35 Cincinnati-area students on earlier this week. The $100 shopping spree at a local Dick's Sporting Goods store was coordinated by the Marvin Lewis Community Fund and its "Learning is Cool" program. The elementary- and middle school-aged children came from different schools across the area.
With its group of players on injured reserve, the Cincinnati Bengals nearly have enough to field a full 11-man unit.Nine players in all have spent time on the season-ending IR list, forcing the Bengals to showcase the depth that many believed they had before the season even began.