In spite of being a first round pick, Darqueze Dennard, the cornerback drafted out of Michigan State in 2014, only played 77 snaps during his rookie year, buried behind veterans Leon Hall, Adam Jones, Terence Newman and fellow first round pick Dre Kirkpatrick. In his second year, Dennard has too much potential to continue sitting on the bench. Paul Guenther, Cincinnati's defensive coordinator, said via ESPN that the Bengals need "to rotate these guys in. There's going to be a time when he's going to play every snap if somebody goes down".
This comes after his biggest game to date against the Chiefs in Week 4. Despite allowing a big reception to Jeremy Maclin, Dennard played well in the second half, stepping up with Jones sidelined with a groin injury. Dennard played 37 snaps and was a bright spot on the defensive side of the ball, according to ProFootballFocus.
With such a longjam in the secondary, it is going to be hard for Guenther to find playing time for Dennard, but still, Guenther said this week, "he needs to play more... The son of a b**** is a tough competitor. I like having him on my side."
The 5-11 Georgia native has been biding his patiently, shining on special teams and wherever the coaching staff needs him. He was upset with himself for Maclin's catch against him on sunday, however the Bengals are happy with his development. His coordinator went on to say that "he was a little bit off, he was off on his technique there, but for the most part he tackled well."
With Jones and Kirkpatrick entrenched on the outside and Hall inside, the only person who really knows how Dennard is going to get his shot is Guenther. We saw last week that George Iloka's injury opened a spot at safety and his backup, Shawn Williams did not play all the snaps in his place. Hall played some safety and thus there is a chance we could see the Bengals' top four cornerbacks on the field at the same time more often.
Dennard was happy about the chance to play against Kansas City, but that big play left a sour taste. "It was good to get my feet wet. [But] I was really pissed off about that ball".
With Kirkpatrick struggling and Jones a factor in the return game, Cincinnati's coaching staff knows they will need him to contribute, and like head coach Marvin Lewis said a few weeks ago, "(If Dennard has to play) he'll play just as well as what we're playing, and I feel good about that. He's smart, and he's trained to play a bunch of different sports there, which is good".