Bengals place Thomas Howard on IR with torn ACL

AP

The Bengals are down a starting linebacker.

Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that the Bengals have placed linebacker Thomas Howard on injured reserve after he tore his ACL in practice on Thursday. Howard had three tackles and a sack in Monday night’s 44-13 loss to the Ravens and was starting his second year as a starter in Cincinnati.

Howard was the team’s best cover linebacker, leaving a big hole in their defense as the team tries to make it back to the playoffs for the second year in a row. Howard, a 2006 second-round pick in Oakland, is also a sure tackler and the team doesn’t have much experience behind him.

The two likeliest choices to take over on the weak side of the defense are Dan Skuta and Vincent Rey, both of whom make most of their impact on special teams. Skuta has started four games since making the Bengals as an undrafted free agent in 2009 and, according to Geoff Hobson of the team’s website, Rey has just two snaps from scrimmage in his three years with the team. Hobson also reports that the team has re-signed linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy, cut before the start of the season, to take Howard’s place on the roster.

It’s the latest in a long series of injuries on the Bengals defense since the start of training camp, although it looks like they’ll be getting defensive end Carlos Dunlap back after about a month on the sideline with a sprained knee.