Lists can become vanilla if you continue to have the same content time after time. For our potential Bengals breakout players lists, we attempt to put different players on the lists for a variety of reasons. Those range from a past year's player achieving a "breakout campaign", to others aging and even disappointments that force us to omit them. As this year's list nears the finish line, there are some players that will appear for the second consecutive season.
Cornerback Darqueze Dennard was towards the back of last year's list because we knew the depth chart at the position and how this coaching staff can treat rookies. Still, we thought he could make an impact on special teams and potentially as a slot cover man, given Marvin Lewis' comment of Dennard being "the best rookie cornerback" he'd ever seen.
Alas, Dennard didn't get much time in 2014, but still flashed promise. With 17 total tackles, mostly on special teams, a sack, and a forced fumble, there is hope. With Terence Newman gone to Minnesota, Dennard is slated as a No.3 corner on this year's roster. For that reason, we see Dennard making more plays on defense while also continuing to contribute on special teams.
Why He Makes The List:
Leon Hall: Like it or not, Hall is one of the better first round picks in the Marvin Lewis era. He makes plays, is physical and seems to be very team-oriented. Pro Bowl berths and other accolades won't show his value, but he's been a solid Bengal. Still, the team has experimented with him at safety for the first time this offseason, and he has been kicking inside as a slot cover guy. Because of this, Dennard could see increased playing time on the outside with Dre Kirkpatrick, with Hall potentially kicking inside or maybe even helping at safety, if absolutely needed.
Ability To Play Slot Or Outside: I realize that the above-mentioned point spoke to Dennard playing outside, but there are occasions that he would play inside as a nickel corner as well. Depending on the team and wide receiver grouping, Hall could remain outside with Kirkpatrick and Dennard inside. If Dennard reminds folks of a young Leon Hall, that isn't a reach.
Obviously, the hope and plan is that in the very near future the Bengals would have a tandem like Hall and Johnathan Joseph and Hall in the late-2000s in Kirkpatrick and Dennard. Maybe Kirkpatrick is the more athletic gambler capable of the big plays while Dennard is the sound technician that can shut down a variety of types of receivers. On the Inside the Jungle podcast and in various posts on this website, we have mentioned that the coaches are doing a disservice to this team by continuing to sit talented youngsters. Perhaps a sound year from Dennard will help in changing that mindset.
it's a big year for the cornerback group. If the Bengals have somehow missed on two first round corners in a three-year span, that's a devastating blow to the future of the team. If they strike gold with one or both, it obviously continues to solidify a sound defense. Last season, the defensive backs carried the unit because of an abhorrent pass rush. With the team making some moves to boost it, Dennard and others could be the beneficiaries.