For the Bengals, the hits keep coming.
Outside linebacker Thomas Howard will be placed on injured-reserve after tearing his ACL in practice Thursday. The Bengals will likely start Dan Skuta in his place and will re-sign Roddrick Muckelroy, who was cut on at the end of the preseason.
In losing Howard the Bengals lose a fast, three-down linebacker who proved to be a smart free-agent signing in 2011 and was a key piece of the 2012 defense, too.
Losing Howard is just one of those things that doesn’t bode well for the Bengals. The season’s not teetering yet — they should be 1-1 by the end of Sunday — but this loss is just one of those bad signs. It’s a loss for defensive speed, leadership and playmaking ability. It forces Skuta, a rising star as a special teams guy, into a new role, and there’s a chain reaction with other moves elsewhere.
Maybe this will lead to Vontaze Burfict, eventually, getting more run. Maybe Rey Maualuga and Manny Lawson — and Skuta — will answer the call and deliver.
Losing Howard is a very tough blow.