Now that you've had time to digest the team's 2010 Draft Class, we wanted to take the time and reset the team's roster, predicting what this means with the team's roster and how the Bengals will look going into the regular season. We had to split this up into multiple parts for the sheer volume of content. In this post, we examine the secondary.
Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall, arguably one of the league's best cornerback duos, are in no danger of losing their jobs as starters. Even though it's unlikely that the Bengals will keep both players when their respective rookie contracts expire within the next two years, the team can worry about that for another day -- hopefully though they're working on a way to keeping both.
Drafting Brandon Ghee as the team's third round compensatory pick helps solidify an open need to improve the team's third cornerback, otherwise known as the nickel back -- minus the crappy music. Improving the team's depth at cornerback is two fold. One, the team needs better talent while facing the league's better passing offenses from last year. Two, the team may need a long-term solution if either Hall or Joseph bail for free agency. Does Ghee serve both needs? Yes on the former. Until we get a better sample on his production in the NFL, undecided on the latter.
There is speculation that Brandon Ghee could work towards being a free safety with the team incorporating Morgan Trent and David Jones as the backup cornerbacks. For now, I don't buy it. When the Bengals put together their final roster in 2009, they took five cornerbacks. Unless Keiwan Ratliff and Antonio Smith makes noise in training camp and the preseason, the defense will want to keep the secondary strong. In an interview earlier this month, Mike Zimmer, confirming their need for a nickel back and NOT a safety, says:
"And I think we still need to find some more corners – a nickel back – all those areas that play into the situational part of the game. That’s always a key. When I worked for Parcells, he always talked about having pressure players and cover players. Those two positions are always really hard to find."
On the other hand, last year Zimmer is quoted as saying:
"Everybody in the NFL is looking for cover safeties," Zimmer said. "You're playing three and four receivers, and tight ends that can run. So what's wrong with playing three corners and a safety? We're not really a Cover 2 team, but a Cover 2 corner might fit for us as a free safety."
With both of these quotes in mind, it wouldn't be shocking to believe Ghee's role on this team will be dynamic, perhaps improving the team's coverage as a safety in some situations while solidifying their cornerback roster. Man, a guy that can play both roles? Nuts! Think of it this way, Ghee covers the slot receiver on third down formations with between 5-10 yards to go while playing a deep cover safety with anything deeper than ten yards to go for a first down. Sounds good, doesn't it? Or are we giving Ghee too much credit?
Other factors that could weigh in their roster of safeties is the belief by Marvin Lewis that they're satisfied by the safeties they have, saying:
"We didn’t draft a young safety. We have a couple of guys here, already in the building, who we have trained to be safeties. It’s kind of like the apprenticeship program we had last year on the offensive line. So we feel like we already have some people present here that kind of hit it better than maybe some other guys would. But we’ll see what happens. We didn’t feel like there was anybody that hit us who would upgrade where we were, other than maybe the age of our two starters."
Yea, I don't feel it either. But that's where he is. A variable in all of this is the team's signing of College Free Agent Jeromy Miles, who could challenge last year's College Free Agent, Tom Nelson for a roster spot. This brings up an interesting dilemma and debate. Let's preface all this by saying I have no idea how Miles will pan out or if he's that much better of an option than Nelson. All I know is that Nelson really struggled towards the end of the season when injury impacted our safeties, opening the roster spot for serious competition.
Once you get past guys like Chris Crocker, Roy Williams and Chinedum Ndukwe, safety widens considerably. Let's give Kyries Hebert the benefit of the doubt being the team's special teams ace. Is that enough to warrant him a spot? Is this where the addition of Ghee makes sense as a safety?
Since the Bengals took five safeties in the regular season last year, we project that the final two spots are open for competition. With Herbert getting the April 26th nod based on his special teams work, that leaves the final position in a battle between Miles, Nelson and Rico Murray.
In truth, I believe the question boils down to a more simplified version. Who makes this secondary better? Miles or Ratliff. I know, how did I get to that point? Basically the answer will come with the speculation of where Ghee plays. Is the secondary better with Ratliff (or Smith) as the team's fifth cornerback or with Miles (or Nelson) at safety? Again, maybe we're giving Ghee too much credit that he can be a dynamic utility player. It's only April 26th afterall.
All that being said, here's our ridiculously early projection of the team's secondary.
- Chris Crocker
- Roy Williams
- Chinedum Ndukwe
- Kyries Hebert
- Jeromy Miles
- Leon Hall
- Johnathan Joseph
- Brandon Ghee
- Morgan Trent
- David Jones