2014 (opening day): Leon Hall, Terence Newman, Adam Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick, Darqueze Dennard
2015 (current): Leon Hall, Adam Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick, Darqueze Dennard, Josh Shaw, Brandon Ghee, Chris Lewis-Harris, Troy Hill
During his age-defying tenure in Cincinnati, Terence Newman turned a declining career into a serviceable contribution with the Bengals, who employed one of Newman's favorite coaches in Mike Zimmer. In three seasons, Newman played 41 games, generated five interceptions, recovered three fumbles (one leading to a game-winning touchdown) and accumulated an opposing quarterback rating of 81.4.
Newman was serviceable.
Unfortunately, time and age caught up with him, leading to festering injuries that slowly depreciated his production. The Bengals bought Newman a ticket on the Belle of Cincinnati and waved goodbye. Meanwhile, to make up for the loss, Cincinnati selected defensive back Josh Shaw, who is already being projected as the team's fifth cornerback, during the 2015 NFL draft. Could the promise of youth outweigh Newman's departure?
Losing Newman shouldn't be a real issue because Hall, Jones, Kirkpatrick and Dennard give the Bengals depth at the position, so much so that Shaw will be deeply buried on the depth chart, allowing the rookie to develop. "He’s going to be good," head coach Marvin Lewis said during rookie practices this spring. "He’s going to be ahead of the curve that way, and that’s a good thing. I feel good about that. We just need to teach him to play the game as an NFL DB and not a college DB." Like Hall, who dabbed slightly at safety this spring, Shaw is versatile enough to move around the secondary, giving the Bengals options.
Has the cornerback position improved over the offseason?
In addition to the Shaw/Newman translation, this answer depends on the growth and development of two first round draft picks: Kirkpatrick, armed with highlights and a collection of lowlights, and Dennard. Both of whom have struggled breaking into the starting rotation. Both have promoted themselves as eventual starters, initiating one of the biggest training camp competitions to begin next week. Opposingly, we shouldn't be surprised if Kirkpatrick and Dennard are starting, completing the highly anticipated youth movement.