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Cincinnati Bengals Linebackers Getting Thin with Off the Field Issues

May 21st, 2012 at 7:00 AM
By Chuck Chapman

'Rey Maualuga' photo (c) 2011, Jeffrey Beall - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Jason LaCanfora of the NFL Network reported yesterday that Cincinnati Bengals' linebacker Dontay Moch is facing a four game suspension for violating the NFL's illegal substance policy. Moch seemed to confirm the report later with a Twitter message which admitted that he had made a mistake and that it was "time to move on."

Though the league has yet to officially comment, if Moch is facing a suspension, the depth at linebacker for the Bengals could be compromised.

Ostensibly, the Bengals starting unit looks as it did as 2011 wound down: Manny Lawson and Thomas Howard would man the outside linebacker spots with Rey Maualuga in the middle. The only problem with that scenario is that Maualuga could be facing some mandatory time off the field as well. Although assault charges stemming from an incident at a downtown Cincinnati bar have been dismissed, that doesn't automatically put Maualuga in the clear as far as the league office is concerned. Given that Maualuga would be viewed as a repeat offender, it wouldn't be out of reason to think that he could miss a quarter or even half the regular season.

The chief reserves for the Bengals last season were Dan Skuta and Brandon Johnson. Johnson has yet to resign as an unrestricted free agent. He's drawn some interest from Pittsburgh, but that's about it. The question is whether or not another team would offer him a longer deal than the reported single year offer coming from Cincinnati.

Roddrick Muckleroy sat out all last season with an Achilles' injury and should be ready to go come training camp. At what speed is still a matter of debate. Vincent Rey returns, but played mostly special teams.

That leaves an untested group of Micah Johnson, who was on the practice squad last year, and Vontaze Burfict, Emmanuel Lamur, Grant Hunter and Brandon Joiner, all undrafted free agents. 

Burfict is the wild card. If he is able to be a solid citizen, the Bengals questions about Maualuga and the inside would be moot. If Muckleroy is back 100 per cent and with Skuta capably filling in, the depth in the event of Moch's absence wouldn't be an issue.

Most likely this will be a bigger problem for Moch than for the Bengals. Despite his promise coming out of Nevada, injuries sidelined him all of last season. If Moch can't get on the field, then the Bengals may look elsewhere, like with an impressive rookie free agent like Lamur.

Tags: Cincinnati, Cincinnati Bengals, Dan Skuta, Dontay Moch, Football, NFL, Rey Maualuga, Vontaze Burfict

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