It was supposed to be a competition between Dre Kirkpatrick and Darqueze Dennard to break into the Bengals starting cornerback rotation. Leon Hall and Adam Jones were (and maybe still are) the starting cornerbacks, yet OTA practices allowed Hall to see what being a safety on the Bengals would be like. The move is something that makes sense from a long-term point of view. Is this an experiment toward an eventuality? While Hall suffers with top-speed compared to some of his contemporaries, he makes up for it as a sound tackler with good coverage instincts.
Don't read too much into it.
"We're just a little thin there with George (Iloka) out," said Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther via Local 12. "We just want to see what he can do. It’s really a three-corner set. He’s playing corner, that's his spot... He’s valuable to us in the nickel as the nickel corner. He’s one of the best in the league at it."
Iloka missed every practice this spring due to an unspecified injury. Safety Shawn Williams worked with the first-team defense, with Hall taking reps there too. Rookies Derron Smith and Josh Shaw played mostly with the second-team units. However the lack of experience (if not talent) at safety showed. Excluding Hall, behind Nelson and Iloka are Williams, Shiloh Keo, Erick Dargan, Floyd Raven and two rookies, who are growing up together in the NFL.
"I knew the playbook like the back of my hand at Fresno State, so it was definitely different getting back in that study mode and actually having to put in hours by yourself or with another teammate," said Smith on Thursday via the Cincinnati Enquirer. "My roommate, Josh (Shaw), we do a good job of quizzing each other. And then of course the vets, they help out a lot too."
The conservative projection is that Hall, Jones and Kirkpatrick will start at cornerback (assuming a 4-2-5 starting alignment). Hall, Kirkpatrick and Darqueze Dennard would mix veteran leadership with developing talent (who simply need reps and playing time to grow).
Either way, safety isn't a long-term placement for Hall, but if it helps the team, he's open to it.
"I’m not taking that out of the scenario," said Hall via Local 12. "If that time comes and they feel like it’s necessary (to move to safety) I wouldn’t retire because of it... The more you can do the better. If I feel I can succeed at it and it helps the team, I’m all for it."