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Bengals list Leon Hall questionable vs Bills; Darqueze Dennard may get first NFL start

Darqueze Dennard could be in line for his first NFL start if Leon Hall sits out this week.

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Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals could have a different starting slot cornerback this week when they take on the Bills.

Leon Hall is listed as questionable to play Sunday as he deals with a back injury that limited him in practice this week. Hall has played well this season as Cincinnati's full-time slot corner after a so-so 2014 season while coming back from his second torn Achilles tendon.

Hall wasn't listed as having an injury leading up to the Bengals' matchup with the Seahawksbut only played in 13 snaps that game. He then missed practice on Wednesday and was limited both Thursday and Friday. It's tough to say if he'll play Sunday, and given that the team is 5-0 and has other corners ready to play, Cincinnati may play it safe and sit him against the Bills.

That would leave Darqueze Dennard to get his first NFL start. After being drafted 24th-overall in the 2014 NFL Draft, Dennard has recorded 31 tackles and three pass deflections in 19 career games. He actually played 19 snaps Sunday with Hall being limited with his back issue.

Dennard was also forced to play 39 snaps in Week 54 vs the Chiefs after Adam Jones was in and out of the lineup with a groin injury. It's a good thing he's gotten more run as of late after playing sparingly as a rookie and through the first three weeks this season. If he starts Sunday at Buffalo, he'll likely be matchup up in the slot with Robert Woods for much of the game.

Hopefully, Dennard can play better this week than he has thus far in 2015. He's the 59th-ranked corner on Pro Football Focus, which isn't bad, but it's not as good as the Bengals hope he'll be after spending a first-round pick on him, as he told Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer.

"That’s my job," Dennard said. "That’s what I’m supposed to do. I am a first round pick so that should be expected. (If I) come in, we shouldn’t miss any beats. I think I’ve played all right. I got a couple plays on me. Just gotta learn."

After rarely playing last year, Dennard admits it's difficult to prepare like a starter every week, only to go out and play a couple of snaps.

"It’s definitely hard to stay at that level mentally," Dennard said. "You could get frustrated with some things, you could get down on some things because you want to play, such things like that."

Dennard even said in his rookie season, he was developing some lazy habits and gaining weight as he sat on the bench and watched Hall, Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick and Terence Newman getting most of the snaps.That's changed this year though with Newman gone and the other three being dinged up at times. That's allowed Dennard to play more in the past two games.

Even if Hall plays this week, expect to keep seeing Dennard on the field for a significant amount of snaps with Hall limited.