Bengals Free Agency

How D.J. Reader, Trae Waynes Help Bengals in Battle for AFC North

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 20: Trae Waynes #26 of the Minnesota Vikings celebrates his interception in the fourth quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on October 20, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 20: Trae Waynes #26 of the Minnesota Vikings celebrates his interception in the fourth quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on October 20, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /
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The Cincinnati Bengals made two huge acquisitions to their defense that will help them in their battle for the AFC North. 

The Cincinnati Bengals and Zac Taylor proved they were ready to do whatever necessary to get back in the fight for the AFC North with their free-agent signings of D.J. Reader and Trae Waynes. Both players will help them combat their divisional rivals who have taken steps to improve this off-season.

Starting with Reader, his primary focus will be to stop the rushing attacks, especially those of the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns. This is especially key in matchups against the Ravens, as they’ve lost all-pro guard Marshall Yanda to retirement. It will still be difficult to contain Lamar Jackson and company, but Reader, alongside Geno Atkins, can wreak havoc on the newfound weakness of the Raven’s interior offensive line, potentially throwing a wrench in their gameplan.

The Bengals are also used to getting nickel and dimed from running back and tight ends out of the backfield due to their lack of coverage linebackers. While the hope still remains that they can infuse talent into the linebacker core to address the issue, Reader will help the rest of the defensive line get after the quarterback and apply pressure himself, masking that deficiency.

As a run stuffer, he can also help make teams one dimensional, allowing the second level to focus more on dropping back in coverage.

As for Waynes, the 27-year-old corner gives the Bengals additional youth and blazing speed in the secondary. The former Minnesota Vikings stand-out ran an astonishing 4.31 40 during his combine, which will be key in the team matching up with divisional wide receivers like Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Juju Smith-Schuster, and Marquise Brown. Due to the fact that the team already has William Jackson III and Jessie Bates III patrolling the back end, Waynes may give them enough to stifle the opposing passing attacks.

Waynes is also known for his tremendous tackling ability on the edge. Defensive Coordinator Lou Anarumo’s unit ranked last in stopping the run last year and missed many tackles along the way. Waynes should certainly help the Bengals fix that issue. In addition, his speed and athleticism should play a key role in turning Lamar Jackson back inside towards the rest of the defense rather than allowing him to get to the edge.

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Both the Ravens (Calais Campbell) and the Browns (Austin Hooper, Jack Conklin) have already gotten better this off-season. However, the Bengals are making transactions to counter these additions. With the first pick in every round of the draft and the potential to make more moves in free agency or the trade market, they still have more ammunition to continue improving, giving them the opportunity to emerge from the AFC North cellar.

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