Breaking Down The Cincinnati Bengals Defensive Back Roster

Andy Lyons

We take a look at the Bengals history of taking defensive backs into the regular season, projecting a probable secondary roster.

Trying to determine the number of cornerbacks or safeties the Bengals will take into the 2013 regular season isn't entirely possible. Not now. At least if you're applying what they've carried into the regular season recently.

In six years the Bengals have taken anywhere between 4-6 cornerbacks, or a similar range of safeties -- as long as the total number of defensive backs equals 10, often leaning towards the more talented side. A breakdown:

SEASON CORNERBACKS SAFETIES TOTAL
2012 6 4 10
2011 4 6 10
2010* 5 4 9
2009 5 5 10
2008 4 6 10
2007 4 6 10
* Bengals traded David Jones for Reggie Nelson after the 53-man roster was set (which is applied here)

Significantly more talented with Leon Hall, Terence Newman, Adam Jones, Nate Clements, Dre Kirkpatrick and Jason Allen, the Bengals short-changed safety heading into the regular season last year. Taylor Mays earned a spot as a starting strong safety, but quickly demoted when Cincinnati attempted a failed Nate Clements transition, finally stabilized by Chris Crocker's return early during the season.

Alternatively the Bengals were stronger at safety in 2011 with Crocker, Reggie Nelson, Gibril Wilson (hurt during training camp) and a collection of young players in Robert Sands, Jeromy Miles and Mays. The comparison, at least the word "stronger" is only relative because after Clements and Hall at cornerback, the team stocked the position with Morgan Trent and Kelly Jennings -- both free agents without having played in 2012.

Now the question: What do the Bengals do this year?

Obviously the question is premature. Who knows what could happen from now until the regular season opener against the Chicago Bears. Chris Crocker could return, an injury may upset the roster balance, someone impresses or another disappoints. There are 16 defensive backs currently signed to the offseason roster, with four rookies and a handful of talented players with a history of injuries that has stalled development (Dye, Prater, Ghee).

CORNERBACKS SAFETIES
Leon Hall Reggie Nelson
Terence Newman Shawn Williams *
Dre Kirkpatrick Taylor Mays
Adam Jones Jeromy Miles
Shaun Prater Tony Dye
Brandon Ghee George Iloka
Chris Lewis-Harris Robert Sands
Onterio McCalebb *
Terrence Brown *
Troy Stoudermire *

At first glance the Bengals are significantly superior at cornerback, while the lone change at safety is rookie Shawn Williams replacing free agent Chris Crocker (who at this rate could return early in 2013 again). If we're making a projection of 10 defensive backs, our lineup would look somewhat like this:

CORNERBACKS SAFETIES
Leon Hall Reggie Nelson
Terence Newman Shawn Williams *
Dre Kirkpatrick Taylor Mays
Adam Jones Jeromy Miles
Shaun Prater
Brandon Ghee

We'll say it again. Anything could happen. Injuries remove nominations while undrafted free agents like McCalebb, Brown and Stoudermire significantly impress the coaching staff. Either way the saturation of talent at cornerback is a nice problem to have. Decent talent will have to go to make room.

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