It doesn’t seem to get a ton of attention nationally, but the Cincinnati Bengals have been missing one of the best interior defenders in the NFL for a handful of games now with DJ Reader out.
But the Bengals sound hopeful Reader is close to a return after this bye week.
Reader went down with a knee injury in Week 3 against the Jets and was — at best — projected to be ready after the bye week. From the comments made by defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo, Reader’s right on track.
“I think he’s on track. I saw him running around out there this morning and looking good so hopefully it’ll stay trending that way and just give us a great lift when he gets back,” Anarumo said, according to Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “He’s really really hard to block one-on-one in the run game and gives you more rush than you would think from a guy his size and then just his leadership out there on the field. He’s a dominating force.”
That’s just vague enough to not be too shocked if Reader misses one more game. But the extent of the injury always suggested the target date was Week 11 against the Steelers.
Despite the injury, and at least partially due to some of the opponents faced, the Bengals defense has continued to rank well. But the entire unit should only improve once Reader returns and makes the lives of everyone to the sides and behind him easier, just in time for a rough winter stretch.