There was a time when Cincinnati had, arguably, one of the elite cornerback combinations in the NFL. In 2009, their best season together, cornerbacks Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall played 608 defensive snaps, with Hall only allowing a completion rate of 50.5 percent and Joseph slightly higher at 59.3 percent. Then-defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer had extensive freedom, allowing uncharacteristic blitzing schemes because Hall and Joseph were holding their own. In the end, Joseph, a former first round pick from the 2006 NFL draft, and Hall, another first rounder in 2007, played four seasons together.
Eventually money became a problem -- the evil "business" side. A choice was required: Sign free agent Joseph to a long-term deal or extend Hall. There was no third choice, as they saw it. Cincinnati choose Hall, allowing Joseph to sign a five-year deal with the Houston Texans worth $48.75 million ($12.5 million guaranteed). Soon after, Cincinnati sealed Hall to a four-year extension worth $39 million with $14.037 million guaranteed.
That, as they say, was that.
Joseph would win two playoff games in Houston (both at the expense of the Bengals) and earned a Pro Bowl spot in each of those seasons (2011, 2012). Hall, meanwhile, hasn't won a playoff game nor any Pro Bowls, but regardless, he's been a significant defensive contributor on a defense that's qualified for the postseason in five of the past six seasons.
Now, Joseph is playing his fifth season with the Texans, the same amount of time he spent in Cincinnati. To articulate the amount of time Joseph has been gone, this Monday will be his fifth game against the Bengals, third in the regular season. So the storyline of a former player coming home isn't nearly as fresh, though his contributions are irritatingly significant (multiple interceptions against Andy Dalton, including a pick-six during Cincinnati's 22-13 win last season).
Instead of wondering how he feels about returning to Cincinnati, Joseph was asked about Cincinnati's offense, wondering how he'll defend against their offensive weapons.
"It kind of dictates what type of coverage you can run at times because you just can't key in on A.J. Green or the tight end," Joseph told the Houston media this week. "(Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton) spreads the ball around to (Mohamed) Sanu, (Marvin) Jones, the running back, all of those guys, so I think he makes you play, pretty much, honest."
It's interesting, isn't it?
Tory James and Deltha O'Neal, albeit briefly, were Pro Bowlers during their time in Cincinnati. Eventually James and O'Neal gave way to Joseph and Hall. In a way, this transition stalled as Dre Kirkpatrick still struggles to find his rhythm while Darqueze Dannard is virtually begging for playing time. It's the circle of life, bro.