Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 11/17/11
The last time the Bengals faced the Ravens, they had the best duo of cover corners in the league. And now? Who steps up will determine whether the Bengals remain in the playoff hunt.When Johnathan Joseph left via free agency for Houston, the Bengals added veteran corner Nate Clements, whose leadership and knack for making big plays in the fourth quarter the past couple games has been a lift for a defense ranked fifth this week.The solution to replacing Leon Hall for the rest of the season will be even more difficult. Of all the defensive players, Hall was the one they could least afford to lose but that happened last Sunday when the fifth-year player tore his left Achilles. Considering the Bengals have carried only four cornerbacks this season, there aren't exactly an abundance of options.Secondary coach Kevin Coyle refused to say Hall's injury was devastating, but it is. Last year Coyle saw eight of his players end up on injured reserve but only one of them was a starter. Hall's injury by itself will take a huge toll."It's a horrible pill to swallow. Leon is such a tremendous attribute to this defense," linebacker Manny Lawson said. "You're talking about a corner that can cover, a corner that can tackle and a corner that makes plays. We're losing a ... key to this defense. The next guy that comes in has to step up. You can't say fill his shoes but he has to step up and be a playmaker."The two options at the moment are Kelly Jennings and Adam "Pacman" Jones.Jennings, who was acquired in a trade from Seattle during the preseason, has been used as the corner in nickel situations, which is a departure from his role with the Seahawks. A former first-round pick, the sixth-year player started 44 games with Seattle, including 14 last season.In assessing his play, Lewis said there has been an adjustment period for Jennings, who has gone through four different defensive systems since 2008 (three in Seattle and then Cincinnati).Jones, who began the year on the Physically Unable to Perform list as he recovered from last year's neck injury, has been in for only play -- a 66-yard punt return against Seattle where he strained his hamstring and has missed two more games.In five games last year, Jones was showing steady progress as he learned Mike Zimmer's scheme. He had an interception, forced fumble and fumble recovery.Said Coyle of Jones: "Hopefully we'll see how he progresses during the week but Adam would certainly help us if we can get him back into the swing of things. Hopefully he will be able to step in and take some of the loss of Leon away."Whoever steps in, no one on the defense expects the game plan to change much. Safety Chris Crocker has been with Zimmer since 2007, when both were in Atlanta, and was part of a defense that did not have a shutdown corner."We were doing the same things, so we're just going to continue to do the same things and guys will step in and play," he said.SERIES HISTORY: 32nd regular-season meeting. Ravens lead series, 16-15. The Bengals have won three of the past four. This is the latest the two division rivals have met for the first time since 1999, when it was the 11th game for both. NOTES, QUOTES Lewis fares well against former team--Bengals head coach and former Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis has had consistent success against his former team. Going into this week's game, Lewis is 10-6 and has swept the season series three times (2005, '07 and '09).--Marvin Lewis is 4-4 as Bengals coach in games in Baltimore. There have been two notable wins at M&T Bank Stadium during his tenure.In 2004, the Bengals were down 20-3 in the fourth quarter before Carson Palmer rallied them back with three touchdown passes in the final quarter and a Shayne Graham 24-yard field goal as time expired to edge the Ravens 27-26.In 2009 Andre Caldwell caught a 20-yard touchdown from Palmer with 22 seconds to play to give the Bengals a 17-14 win. --The Bengals have allowed only two sacks over the last four games, and 13 for the season, which is tied for third-fewest in the NFL with Tennessee. Buffalo has allowed the fewest sacks (10) with Oakland one behind.Cincinnati is on pace to allow only 23 sacks. The team record low is 17, set in 2007, and the No. 2 mark was 21 when they won the division in 2005.--When Leon Hall's 66 consecutive starts streak ends this weekend, the new one will be shared by C Kyle Cook and OT Andrew Whitworth, who will extend theirs to 43. They have started every game since the 2009 season.Overall, Hall had played in 74 straight games. That streak now goes to LB Brandon Johnson at 59. Johnson has played in every game since joining the Bengals in 2008. --The Bengals and Ravens are among four teams with four touchdowns on returns. That's tied for third-most in the league, behind Chicago (seven) and Green Bay (five). The Bengals have scored three TDs via defense and one via special teams. All of Baltimore's return TDs have come from the defense.BY THE NUMBERS: 14 -- Touchdown passes for Andy Dalton, which is the most in a season's first nine games of any rookie since the merger. The second-highest nine-game total has been 13, by Jim Plunkett (1971) and Dan Marino (1983). Dalton would need two TD passes at Baltimore to post the most by a rookie in the first 10 games. The record is 15, shared by Marino in '83 and Peyton Manning in '98. QUOTE TO NOTE: "I mean, if you would ask me, I'd say we built this defense around Leon and that's the honest-to-God truth. You can't do a lot without having a shutdown corner. We still have guys who are talented and we'll do what we do -- we're not going to change anything, because we can't -- but it's hard to lose somebody." -- S Chris Crocker on injured CB Leon Hall. STRATEGY AND PERSONNELWide receiver A.J. Green did not practice Wednesday and expects to be a gametime decision due to a hyperextended right knee. Green did say that the knee does feel better compared to the past couple days and that it should improve with rest and treatment. For a team already trying to adjust to the loss of cornerback Leon Hall, the absence of Green on Sunday would be a big blow to the offense. Green leads NFL rookies in receptions (41), receiving yards (635) and receiving TDs (six).If Green cannot play, Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell would likely be the starters with Andrew Hawkins seeing extended playing time. Considering that Hawkins was the only one who made plays against the Steelers and that Caldwell and Simpson were shut down, that could leave tight end Jermaine Gresham as the only other downfield threat. PLAYER NOTES--S Chris Crocker (knee) was rested and is expected to be in the starting lineup on Sunday at Baltimore--DE Carlos Dunlap (knee) was limited in practice. After being inactive for last week's game against Pittsburgh, he is expected to play against Baltimore.--C Kyle Cook (foot) was limited in practice. He was wearing a boot in the locker room but is expected to start.--DE Frostee Rucker (knee) did not practice. He is questionable for Sunday's game. Rucker has three sacks this season which has doubled his career total.--CB John Bowie, a former University of Cincinnati player who was also with Oakland and Cleveland in the NFL, was signed to the practice squad. INJURY IMPACT--WR A.J. Green (knee) won't practice until Thursday and was walking around with a limp in the locker room on Wednesday. Even if he does play, he will only be 70-80 percent.--CB Adam Jones (hamstringgroin) will try to practice on Thursday after doing running on the sideline on Wednesday. If he plays, he could be around 90 percent. GAME PLAN: A lot of what the offense could do depends on the health of WR A.J. Green. If he is unable to go, expect the Bengals to go to the ground-and-pound style that worked in 2009, when they swept the Ravens. Cedric Benson ran for 100 yards in both games against Baltimore two years ago and is averaging 3.9 yards in the last two games.Defensively, Mike Zimmer has always had good schemes to take away anything downfield from Joe Flacco, but that was when he had two cover cornerbacks. Nate Clements and Kelly Jennings have the speed to match up with Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith but the pass rush will need to play like they did last week against Pittsburgh, when they had five sacks. MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Bengals LT Andrew Whitworth vs. Ravens LB Terrell Suggs -- Whitworth has allowed only one sack this season and three over the past two years. He has allowed only one sack in 14 AFC North games since moving into the left tackle spot. Suggs has 6.5 sacks against the Bengals but only 1.5 since 2005.Bengals DE Carlos Dunlap vs. Ravens RT Michael Oher -- Dunlap has three sacks in the past two games he has played and dominated Oher last year with 1.5 sacks in the season finale.
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