Around the AFC North: Injury to Trae Waynes a Blow for Bengals Defense

Bengals CB Trae Waynes

Cincinnati Bengals: Injury to CB Acquired During Free Agency Is a Setback

The Bengals invested in their defense this offseason, but one of their top free-agent acquisitions has been sidelined.

Cornerback Trae Waynes suffered a pectoral injury last week and the timeframe for his recovery was not immediately announced. According to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, Waynes could miss up to two months and was seeking a second opinion.

"It's unfortunate," Head Coach Zac Taylor said last week, via "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."

The Bengals signed Waynes and defensive tackle D.J. Reader during free agency to bolster a defense that ranked 29th overall last year. Waynes was a first-round pick in 2015 and spent his first five seasons with the Minnesota Vikings.

Waynes' transition to Cincinnati has not gone as smoothly as he hoped. In July his agent, Brian Murphy, told Sports Illustrated that he advised Waynes not to do any on-field drills during the offseason because he had not been paid his signing bonus because his contract wasn't official. Due to delays caused by the coronavirus, Waynes' contract did not become official until he reported to training camp and passed his physical.

Now Waynes has suffered another setback, delaying his impact on Cincinnati's defense.

Cleveland Browns: Baker Mayfield Believes His Swagger Is Back

After a disappointing 6-10 season, Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield did some soul-searching. He hired a dietitian during the offseason and reported to training camp in better shape. He also admitted that last year's struggles took away his swagger.

Mayfield plans to play with the freewheeling confidence he displayed as a rookie in 2018, after he won the Heisman Trophy in 2017 and entered the NFL as the No. 1-overall pick.

"Having success all through high school and college and having that standard so high, the past couple of years have just been a roller coaster of emotions," Mayfield told reporters via "So I would say I lost myself, not having that success. I think I tried different ways of trying to have that success and I didn't find it. I wasn't able to be who (I need to be) for these guys on our team."

The Browns visit the Ravens to open the season (Sept. 13), and how Cleveland goes in 2020 will depend largely on how Mayfield goes. He had 22 touchdown passes last season, but he also threw 21 interceptions. This season, Mayfield says he is leaner and more mobile, which will add to his playmaking ability when he is chased from the pocket.

"There was a lot of plays, looking back on last year, physically, I wasn't able to work out as much, being beat up," Mayfield said. "So I was heavier than I ever was playing before. I needed to be able to have the scrambling ability to move in the pocket. It's my job to be in prime physical shape, to do my job on Sundays.

"I put in the work … (I'm) just ready to roll, attack, get back to where I need to be to be the leader for this team, for this franchise."

Pittsburgh Steelers: Fitzpatrick Predicts He'll Have at Least Six Interceptions

With five interceptions in 14 games, safety Minkah Fitzpatrick had a huge impact on the Pittsburgh defense after being acquired in a trade with the Miami Dolphins last season. Fitzpatrick made first-team All-Pro, but he's looking forward to being even better in 2020. Part of his plan includes even more interceptions.

"I'm going to go with six," Fitzpatrick told the Steelers website when asked how many interceptions he'll have in 2020. "I had five last year, I'm trying to beat that. I think I missed some opportunities last year. I am going to go with six or seven."

With the return of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger from elbow surgery, the Steelers believe they'll be back in the hunt for a division crown. Fitzpatrick said the defense will hold up its end.

"We kept most of our defense from last year," Fitzpatrick said. "I think we will be an even better defense."

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