The Cincinnati Bengals miss defensive tackle D.J. Reader. While they took home the win against the New Orleans Saints, the Bengal defense struggled mightily to stop the run. Reader was playing at a ridiculous level before suffering a knee injury in Week 3 and it was evident his presence in the middle was sorely missed Sunday.
There is a trend here. Since signing Reader in 2020, the three worst games for the Bengals run defense have come without him on the field. The final game of the 2020 season saw the Bengals surrender 404 rushing yards to the Baltimore Ravens, the matchup Sunday saw them give up 228 yards to New Orleans and the 2021 finale featured a 205 yard performance by the Cleveland Browns. Simply put, this defense needs Reader back sooner than later.
When asked about the timeline for Reader’s return, head coach Zac Taylor was noncommittal when speaking to the media.
“He’s irreplaceable,” said Taylor. “One of the premier defensive tackles in the National Football League. Probably doesn’t get enough credit for what he’s done. But in our locker room, our coaching staff, him being voted team captain has allowed him to stand out in a way. That combination of him and B.J. is good together. So we’ll be happy when he comes back. But I don’t know the timeline.”
When Reader was placed in injured reserve, we knew he would be out a minimum of four games, but no official timeline for return has been released. With the next game against the run-heavy Atlanta Falcons, Lou Anarumo will be tasked with making sure the defense doesn’t put together a second consecutive tough week in the trenches. In fact, it could be even tougher with star linebacker Logan Wilson set to miss time with a shoulder injury.
Reader does seem to be progressing well. Last week, he worked on the rehab field with trainers and was able to make the trip to New Orleans, so it would appear he hasn’t had any setbacks in his recovery.
With Reader’s primary backup Josh Tupou banged up, the Bengals may look outside of the building for help in the middle. While reinforcements can help, there are no D.J. Readers out there to bring in. As we await his return, it is all about weathering the storm until the big man is back out there, causing havoc for opposing offenses.