CINCINNATI — The Bengals’ overwhelmed offensive line took another hit on Wednesday when right tackle Jake Fisher went on an injury list, ending his season.
Eric Winston was signed to fill the spot, but it’s unclear how much he can play right away. He’s been out of the NFL since the Bengals released him in the final preseason roster cut.
Cincinnati (3-5) heads to Tennessee (5-3) with its season essentially scuttled by the problem everyone else saw coming: An inexperienced line lost its two top blockers in free agency and did little to replace them. The Bengals have the lowest-ranked offense in the league because the line can’t open holes for running backs or protect Andy Dalton.
“I don’t have a magic potion to give them that all of a sudden it’s going to turn it into something,” Winston said Wednesday.
The Bengals took a huge gamble that Cedric Ogbuehi and Fisher — their top two picks in the 2015 draft — were ready to man both sides of the line. They knew if it didn’t work out, their season could be doomed. Ogbuehi struggled at right tackle last season and was moved to the left side, replacing Andrew Whitworth. Fisher was elevated to right tackle.
Like Whitworth, right guard Kevin Zeitler left in free agency, leaving two huge holes. The Bengals signed Andre Smith — who was recovering from major arm surgery — to take Zeitler’s spot.
None of it has worked. Dalton has been sacked 24 times — he’s on pace for a career high — and the Bengals have managed the fewest yards of any NFL offense. They’re tied with the Giants for third-fewest points scored. Their running game is last in the league.
They had one of the worst offensive showings in franchise history Sunday during a 23-7 loss at Jacksonville. They generated only 29 yards rushing, eight first downs and 148 total yards. In the second half, they had only seven plays that gained yards.
The Bengals had one of their most physical weeks of practice leading up to the game — by coach Marvin Lewis’ design — and made running the ball their priority.
“We were all very confident coming into the game that we were going to run the ball, and it didn’t happen,” Ogbuehi said. “We thought it would carry over to the game and it didn’t.”
There’s no upgrade in sight for the line.
“We have the players we have,” Smith said. “They’re here for a reason. It’s up to us to do what we’re supposed to do.”
Fisher became ill during the game at Jacksonville and was taken to a hospital for tests. He visited a doctor Tuesday who recommended a procedure that would sideline him for the rest of the season. Fisher asked the team to keep the nature of the problem private.
The Bengals had been using Ogbuehi, Fisher and Smith in a rotation at tackle. Winston knows the offense, but it’s unclear how much he can play right away after being out of the league the past two months. Winston was released at the end of training camp and didn’t sign with another team. He played for the Bengals from 2014-16.
“Being around for a while, knowing what to expect, I think I can get over that hump rather quickly,” Winston said.
Kicker Randy Bullock didn’t practice Wednesday because of a bad back. Former Dolphins kicker Marshall Koehn was signed on Saturday as a temporary fill-in and made his extra point attempt. He fully practiced, leaving him in position to play at Tennessee.
Running back Jeremy Hill sat out the game at Jacksonville after spraining an ankle in practice on Saturday. He didn’t practice Wednesday. Safety Shawn Williams (hamstring), defensive tackle Pat Sims (calf) and linebacker Kevin Minter (elbow) also were held out.
Linebacker Vontaze Burfict (thigh), defensive lineman Michael Johnson (back), and receiver Brandon LaFell (hamstring) were among those limited.