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Trae Waynes, D.J. Reader listed as Bengals X-factors in 2021

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Better late than never, right?

The Cincinnati Bengals hope that old saying comes to fruition at least a little bit in 2021 with defenders Trae Waynes and D.J. Reader. Those two were the big-ticket items to the team’s 2020 trip to free agency, yet didn’t even combine for 300 snaps in their debut seasons with the team.

Now ESPN’s Ben Linsey suggests they’re the X-factor for Cincinnati’s 2021 season:

“X factor for 2021: 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.”

One might argue the offensive line in front of Joe Burrow is a bigger X-factor next year.

But realistically, a rebuilt defense wholly collapses if both Waynes at corner and Reader on the interior of the line can’t live up to their big paydays — signings that the team made in an attempt to find rebuilding cornerstones.

For what it’s worth, Reader looked great before getting hurt last year and Waynes should be plenty comfortable with what Lou Anarumo wants to do.

Either way, one couldn’t be blamed for considering them an X-factor.

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