Now that training camp is back into full swing, the chances of players suffering injuries has risen dramatically. While there haven’t been many reports of injuries yet—true practice sessions beyond walkthroughs have only just begun—the Cincinnati Bengals have been among the first victims, and to an important piece.
After parting with both Dre Kirkpatrick and Darqueze Dennard this offseason, two former first-round picks at cornerback, the Bengals signed two Minnesota Vikings cornerbacks to replace them, including another former first-round pick, Trae Waynes, to take over Kirkpatrick’s spot on the outside. Mackenzie Alexander was signed to take over in the slot.
Last week, however, Waynes suffered a pectoral injury. While he is seeking a second opinion as far as his diagnosis goes, he could miss up to two months, which would mean about the first four or five games of the 2020 season, potentially.
“I don’t want to get into too many details right now”, head coach Zac Taylor told reporters about the injury on Tuesday. “It’s unfortunate. He was working hard for us. Again, these things happen. It’s nobody’s fault. We just move on, get him healthy and back on the field”.
In an uncharacteristic move for the organization, the Bengals spent a lot of money bringing in outside free agents, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Aside from the new cornerbacks, they also added D.J. Reader to pair with Geno Atkins in the middle, a four-year deal worth $53 million.
Cincinnati’s other starting cornerback is William Jackson III, who is now heading into his fifth season after they drafted him one spot ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft, prompting them to respond with the drafting of Artie Burns.
The Bengals do not have a lot of proven depth at cornerback behind their top three, with names like Darius Phillips and LeShaun Sims, a cheaper addition via free agency, among those who will be considered to start during the time that Waynes may miss.
Of course, it’s difficult for any team to get much deeper than your top three or four at cornerback. You want your starters to be healthy and consistently on the field, and cornerback is not a position that you are going to use in a rotation very often unless you’re not confident in your starter.
A case could be made that the Bengals have the weakest cornerback group in the division, but the AFC North is particularly strong, with Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey, Joe Haden and Steven Nelson, and Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams.