While we at Cincy Jingle are pretty candid with opinions and analysis when it comes to the Bengals, I feel it necessary to pull back the curtain a bit further when it comes to this particular post.
I already covered the cornerback group as part of the offseason positional analysis, but, as a flurry of Bengals news flew in with the start of training camp, some further analysis on the position is needed. With a few days of camp in the books, it's time to dust this topic off and throw it out for digestion once again, given how the group has looked thus far (hint: impressive).
Starters Looking As Advertised:
Some who had the privilege of watching the Bengals in their nationally-televised Training Camp coverage on NFL Network last Sunday, saw Adam Jones struggle at times as a starting corner. He received casual criticism, but few seemed to have recognize one thing: Jones has been covering A.J. Green most of camp. What hasn't seemed to have been noted is Jones' scrappiness, swagger and ability to make Green and other receivers uncomfortable throughout other parts of camp.
Meanwhile, Dre Kirkpatrick, in his first Training Camp as a designated starter, wants the "C" on his jersey. "When you think about the Bengals, I want you to think of Dre Kirkpatrick," the budding cornerback said this week. Wow. Quite the statement, no? By most accounts, Kirkpatrick has done well when increased responsibility has been given to him, occasionally getting hurt on his gambling nature, but also showing an increase in defensive competence, confidence and, he's even coached up some younger corners during camp.
The secondary as a whole was the glue of the Bengals' defense last year. With the true starters having increased athleticism from previous groups, big plays could become the norm in 2015.
"D-Squared" Nipping at Starters' Heels:
While Kirkpatrick has shown a penchant for big plays and has flashed more consistency than has been seen from him in previous years, Darqueze Dennard has been a steady presence on the outside and in the slot. While most are penciling in Dennard as the slot guy in 2015, he's not making it easy to write him off as a potential starter.
Multiple reports have Dennard looking stout in coverage, which prematurely equates to him living up to his 2014 first round billing. While frustrations have arose in recent years because of the team's coaching staff's preference for steady veterans in lieu of exciting, big-play, inexperienced youngsters, Dennard could help buck the trend. Bad news? He might not be an early starter. Good news? If healthy, we'll see a lot more of Dennard in 2015.
The Other Niche Guys:
It's tough to talk about one of the longest-tenured Bengals players and highest-cap-figured guys as a rotational "niche" guy, but that's the truth surrounding Leon Hall. However, observations from camp have Hall struggling in certain situations against receivers, perhaps limiting him to certain duties in the regular season. He'll make the team for a variety of reasons, ranging from versatility to leadership, but he will have a hard time being more than a No. 4 corner. That's also why the Bengals are considering having him play more at safety in 2015.
The enigma is Josh Shaw. The youngster out of USC is raw, but he's physical, fast and exudes the traits that made him coveted by teams in the draft. As was the case coming into the draft, he isn't for everybody, but he fits the Bengals' preference to a "T": versatile, physical, and big. The Bengals will use 2015 to develop him, but he'll play on special teams and be out on defense on nickel and dime formations.
Some Valued Insight:
McCarron intercepted by Darqueze Dennard, turned into pick 6 https://t.co/zda8431ZQ3— Brennen Warner (@BrennenWarner) August 1, 2015
Cornerback Josh Shaw is worth it, man. Bengals will develop him into a significant contributor. Very physical. Watch his progress over time.— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) August 3, 2015
Dennard and Josh Shaw are first team gunners on punt team.— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) August 3, 2015
I'm a Leon Hall defender but most of the time I'm seeing him, he's not doing well.— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) August 3, 2015
Nice play Dre https://t.co/g7jRabymqW— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) August 3, 2015