Bengals: D.J. Reader and Trae Waynes are the X-factors in 2021

Leigh Oleszczak
D.J. Reader, Cincinnati Bengals (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
D.J. Reader, Cincinnati Bengals (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) /

The Cincinnati Bengals signed D.J. Reader and Trae Waynes last offseason and neither guy contributed much in their inaugural seasons in the Queen City. Injuries kept Waynes out for the entire season and sidelined Reader for all but five games.

That being said, now that the two are returning and are healthy, the Bengals are counting on them to pack a punch in this defense. As a result, both guys were Ben Linsey’s choice for the Bengals’ X-factor for the 2021 season in Linsey’s recent write-up for Pro Football Focus.

Linsey wrote:

"Cincinnati handed out sizable offseason contracts to both D.J. Reader and Trae Waynes last offseason. The two combined for 259 defensive snaps (all by Reader) due to injury. Reader took a clear step forward in his career with Houston in 2019 (85.4 PFF grade), and Waynes earned overall grades of at least 66.0 in each of his final three seasons with the Vikings — a solid mark at the cornerback position. Healthy returns for those two veterans should bring a steadying presence to this defense."

It was certainly a disappointment when neither player contributed much of anything in the 2020 season but at the same time, there’s still time to turn things around.

Stripe Hype’s own Jack Lane discussed Reader’s role for the 2021 season and had high praise for the former Houston Texan. Lane wrote:

"Whether Reader splits multiple linemen with his brute strength or removes them from helping block his teammates, he makes life immeasurably more difficult for running backs."

The Bengals need a boost in their run defense and Reader can certainly provide that. He showed glimpses of being able to contribute in that department through his five games last year but now he has to stay healthy and contribute on a regular basis.

As for Waynes, he’ll be joining Chidobe Awuzie and Mike Hilton in the cornerback room, all three have yet to take a snap in a Bengals uniform even though Waynes signed with the team a year ago. Waynes was a solid cornerback for the Vikings and that’s why Cincinnati wanted him in their secondary so the injury was definitely a huge blow.

D.J. Reader and Trae Waynes are the Bengals’ X-factors in 2021.

If Reader and Waynes are healthy and good to go this year, their defense should be significantly better this year. Reader can help out in the run defense while Waynes should be able to slow down the lethal passing attacks the Bengals are going to face this year.

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These two are forgotten about when discussing the Bengals’ 2021 squad and a lot of that is because Waynes didn’t play at all last year and Reader missed a good portion of the season. They’re both healthy now though and that should lead to good things for this defense moving forward.