Trae Waynes, expected to start at cornerback for the Cincinnati Bengals, will miss their season-opener Sunday against his former team, the Minnesota Vikings, head coach Zac Taylor announced Monday. Waynes injured his hamstring in practice prior to the Bengals' final preseason game.
Since Waynes arrived in Cincinnati after the team signed him to a three-year deal worth $42 million in March of 2020, injuries have hampered his ability to get on the field during the regular season. Waynes missed the entire 2020 season with a torn pectora muscle. The veteran cornerback and the Bengals were looking forward to seeing a healthy Waynes on the outside locking down opponents' top wide receivers this year. Cincinnati will start the season without his services for a second consecutive year.
Waynes has yet to practice since suffering the hamstring injury. Taylor declined to comment on the timeline of when he will be expected to play again. The team not placing the defensive back on the injured reserve list to start the season is an indication he might be able to return to action sooner rather than later.
"If it was dead set he was going to miss three weeks, then we probably would have put him on IR," Taylor said. "Early in the season, we'll just see how it goes, take it week to week. I don't want to make any predictions with the hamstring. We all know how that goes. But right now he's not going to play in this game. We didn't think enough of it to put him on IR."
Taylor confirmed it will be Eli Apple who starts in place of Waynes at cornerback on Sunday. Apple signed a one-year deal with the Bengals in March after spending the three seasons bouncing around different teams. The former No. 10 overall pick out of Ohio State, drafted by the New York Giants, signed with the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers following his departure from New York. In five seasons, Apple has recorded 237 tackles, three forced fumbles and three interceptions.
"We expect great things from Eli and we expect great things from Darius Phillips," Taylor said. "He's going to play. Jalen Davis... These are all the guys that might not be listed as starters, but they sure as heck are going to get a lot of opportunity. Watch every secondary in the league last year, you need your depth to step up and play. They're going to be called upon."
Apple will be tasked with slowing down Minnesota's budding young star Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. The duo combined for 166 catches for 2,325 receiving yards in 2020.
From The Enquirer's Kelsey Conway:
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