Bengals will rely on O-line replacements to slow down Ravens
CINCINNATI (AP) — With guard Alex Cappa now sidelined, the Cincinnati Bengals are faced with starting two backups on the right side of the offensive line for Sunday’s playoff game.
Coach Zac Taylor said Wednesday that Cappa’s injury, suffered in last week’s game, will keep him out of at least the opening playoff game against the Ravens. Beyond that, he can’t say.
Cappa’s injury came two weeks after right tackle La’el Collins was lost for the season to a knee injury. Hakeem Adeniji, whose struggles in pass protection in the postseason last year were conspicuous, is playing in place of Collins. Slotting in for Cappa will be Max Scharping, who started 33 games in Houston in his first three seasons and was claimed off waivers in September.
“The O-line is a continuity and repetition position,” said center Ted Karras, who is responsible for making blocking calls at the line. “We’ve been repping all year, but it will be hard, especially to replace Alex because of our relationship, just how to ID the defense, how to distribute all our blockers. He’s been a humongous help to me, saved me a few times over the season. So I had to step it up. Everyone’s got to step it up. Max has a great opportunity in front of him, and I’m excited to see how he performs.”
The 26-year-old Scharping said he’s capable of holding down the key position.
“I’ve been here all year, so it’s not necessarily anything lacking,” he said. “I’m just hoping to go out there and play to the best of my ability on each play and hopefully be there when (Karras) needs me most.”
Cappa was the first free agent targeted — he got a four-year deal worth $40 million — when Cincinnati began rebuilding its subpar offensive line before the season. It also brought in veterans Karras and Collins, with rookie fourth-round draft pick Cordell Volson fitting in at left guard.
With Jonah Williams at left tackle, the offensive front was together for the first 15 games and became one of the team’s greatest strengths through the eight-game win streak to finish the regular season.
Offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said the scheme won’t change much because of the new personnel on the right side.
“They’ve all been getting reps in all the things that we do and how we run them,” Callahan said. “At this point in the year, it’s hard to introduce all kinds of shiny new things that are really going to change who you are. We’re still going to be who we are as an offense and run a lot of the things that we’ve run and have had success with over the course of the season.”
They will have to contend with a Ravens defense that ranks third in the league in points allowed and ninth in yards.
NOTES: WR Tee Higgins missed Wednesday’s practice with an illness. ... S Tycen Anderson was cleared to return to practice. The 2022 fifth-round draft pick injured his hamstring in the preseason.
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