Before the Bengals left for their bye week, Paul Guenther suggested that young players will see the field more frequently in the second half of the NFL season. Some of the players he was talking about are 2014 third rounder defensive end Will Clarke, 2016 third round linebacker Nick Vigil and 2014 first round pick cornerback Darqueze Dennard.
Dennard was expected to win the slot cornerback job this season, but after a preseason injury, Josh Shaw, a 2014 fourth round pick, stepped up and snatched away the role. This wasn’t the first time that happened to Dennard. During the 2015 offseason, Dennard was competing with Dre Kirkpatrick for a starting job on the boundary, but, a preseason injury for Dennard slowed down the competition and helped Kirkpatrick win the role.
Shaw has actually played quite well this season, which is why he’s kept his job in the slot, but maybe Dennard could be equally if not more effective? Additionally, Kirkpatrick and Adam Jones, the team’s two starters have been inconsistent and often unreliable this season. That may lead to Dennard playing more in the second half of the season, and the former Michigan State star believes he’s done enough to prove he should be playing.
“I feel like I still haven’t had a chance. You look at the amount of plays I’ve had in my career it’s definitely more positive than negative,” Dennard said on Tuesday via Bengals.com. “Not even close with the positive and negative plays if you look at the plays I have played.”
The Bengals have a surplus of talented cornerbacks on their roster, even if they’re not all playing at the level expected of them right now. So while Dennard was a first round pick, so too are the Bengals’ two starters. Dennard knows his teammates are also talented athletes who deserve to be on the field.
“Those guys have played at this level for a while and done Pro Bowl type things and All Pro type things as well,” Dennard said. “You got to look at their resumes as well. I know what I can do. Only thing I can do is keep working and be ready when my number is called.”
We’ll see whether Dennard is given more chances to make an impact in Week 10 when the Bengals travel to MetLife Stadium to face the Giants on Monday Night Football. The Giants have a surprisingly successful wide receiver group this season, led by Odell Beckham Jr. Beckham has 5 touchdowns this season, all of which have come in the last four weeks, following a slow start for the Giants’ third year wide receiver. Early in the season, Beckham's slump was somewhat mitigated by rookie Sterling Shepard getting off to a good start. Shepard has 384 yards and 3 touchdowns this season. Comparatively, Bengals rookie wide receiver Tyler Boyd has 283 yards and 0 touchdowns on the year. Both Sterling and Boyd were second round draft picks.
The Giants' wide receiver unit is also aided by Victor Cruz who's back after injuries kept him off the field for most of 2014 and all of the 2015 season. Cruz has 377 yards and 1 touchdown this season.
If Dennard is to play significant time on defense this week, he won’t be going up against an easy unit to defend against. It would be great to see him get onto the field and leave a positive, lasting impression. Dennard says he’s had more positive plays than negative ones so far in his career, but seeing exclusively positive plays on Sunday would be a great sign of what Dennard is capable of if given a chance to play.