Once Johnathan Joseph Ezio Auditore'ed his way out of Cincinnati, the Bengals front office quickly responded by signing former Bills and 49ers cornerback Nate Clements with a two-year contract. It wasn't a great start for the former the Ohio State Buckeyes cornerback in Cincinnati.
Against the Cleveland Browns and Denver Broncos, Cincinnati's first two games into the 2011 regular season, Clements allowed 228 yards receiving, including two 50-yard receptions and two touchdown receptions, for an opposing quarterback rating of 142.1 on passes thrown against players he covered. Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton posted a 156.3 passer rating when targeting Broncos receivers that Clements was assigned in week two.
But those two games are hardly an accurate portrayal of Clements' time in Cincinnati. An accelerated free agency period, combined with the immediate arrival of training camp, eliminated offseason minicamps for free agents to adjust into a new system. Much like the NFL's early offensive onslaught in September, defenses finally recovered and defensive free agents like Clements are making a greater impact on their respective teams.
In the past eight games, Clements hasn't allowed 60 yards receiving in any game, forcing receivers to convert less than 50% of the receptions they're targeted. Against the Buffalo Bills, when the Ryan Fitzpatrick (pre-contract extension) offense was on fire eariler this season, Clements held receivers he covered to one reception for 17 yards and an opposing quarterback rating of 39.6. Against the Seahawks, Seattle receivers caught two of seven attempted targets for 22 yards receiving.
Not allowing a touchdown since week two against the Broncos, Clements has posted an opposing quarterback rating of 56.7 in eight games since Cincinnati's loss in Denver. Last weekend against the Baltimore Ravens, Clements posted his first interception in a Bengals uniform.
As the Bengals make a push into the 2011 NFL playoffs, Clements will be a huge factor keeping Cincinnati's secondary stable. In his past five games before his season-ending injury, Leon Hall posted an opposing passer rating of 61.2 in past five games.