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Is Darqueze Dennard a quiet key to the AFC North for the Bengals?

Cincinnati unexpectedly brought back their slot ace on a one-year deal last week. The secondary is stacked, proving to be a sage strategy for the Bengals going forward.

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As it currently stands, the Cincinnati Bengals have made some moves with relatively-high significance in free agency. With just three outside signings to seven inside re-signings though, the national needle hasn’t moved much, in terms of perceptions of the team’s 2019 outlook.

However, one specific player was retained this offseason after the initial outlook was very bleak. After testing the market, cornerback Darqueze Dennard signed a one-year deal worth $5 million with the Bengals.

Aside from it being great value, the move deepens a position group ripe with talent. Dre Kirkpatrick and William Jackson flank the outside, while Dennard and new acquisition B.W. Webb man the slot positions.

As is often the case with the semi-conservative Bengals in free agency, their inward-focused approach is used to open up their draft options. When it seemed as if Dennard had balked on the Bengals’ first offer, folks began talking about an early-round corner in April.

Well, with Webb and Dennard in the fold, it would seem that defensive back will probably be explored on day three. That leaves linebacker, offensive line, quarterback and defensive line as higher priorities.

However, aside from these types of benefits with the Dennard back on the Bengals, there is another hidden one we explored on this week’s Orange and Black Insider. With the complexion of the division changing so much this offseason, Dennard could play a huge role in a surprising AFC North run by Cincinnati.

What do we mean, you ask?

The Steelers are in flux because two high-end receiving options in Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell decided to leave Pittsburgh. They’ll undoubtedly land some talented pass-catchers to backfill their vacancies.

Baltimore is lacking at wide receiver, but will also be looking at the draft for speedy options. However, they always seem to have an abundance of tight ends who gash the Bengals and the rest of the league.

And, of course, the media darling Browns have added Odell Beckham, Jr. to their already-talented receiving corps. Throw in some capable tight ends and running backs, and one can see why they’re the current favorites to win the division.

Still, with four decent-to-great options to rely upon in coverage, including Dennard, the Bengals’ defense not only looks to be able to greatly improve upon some deplorable 2018 rankings (with health and other additions, obviously), but should also stand a fighting chance against these divisional assaults because of the secondary’s talent.

Also likely enhancing the play of the defense, and secondary in particular, is the arrival of Lou Anarumo. While he’s relatively green, in terms of coordinator experience, he has cut his NFL teeth working with defensive backs.

Even so, this may seem like a reach of an assumption with the somewhat-paltry stats Dennard has given Cincinnati the past five years. Still, as OBI co-host John Sheeran pointed out this week, two of Dennard’s biggest strengths are his physicality and ability to tackle.

Aside from jamming receivers at the line, Dennard will do work as a blitzer and in the run game. In the case of the Ravens’ read-option offense now featuring Lamar Jackson and Mark Ingram, Dennard should be able to help a bit in limiting damage there as well.

Look, is Dennard a cure-all for what ailed the Bengals last year? No. But, if we’re going to play the same “if game” the Bengals seem to be selling their fans, then “if” Anarumo provides far more stability to a unit that was in chaos last season under Teryl Austin and Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati will be much improved. And, Dennard will be a big part of that process.

Also on this week’s episode:

  • What do we make of the comments from owner Mike Brown on Andy Dalton essentially using 2019 as a prove-it year for an extension? Is it a subtle indication of the team moving on from their veteran signal-caller after a bridge year?
  • Do you believe Zac Taylor in his comments that the Bengals are wide open, in terms of position, at pick No. 11?
  • Just how sick are you of the Cleveland Browns hype train? Have the Bengals done enough in free agency to keep them relevant in the division race in 2019?
  • What are the best options for the Bengals at pick No. 11 if both Devin White and Devin Bush are gone? How do they avoid a reach, in terms of player value?

Our thanks to all of the live listeners and to those who submitted questions. We appreciate all of the support!

If you’re unable to join us live for here at Cincy Jungle or YouTube every episode, all Orange and Black Insider content is available here on CJ, the Stitcher, Spotify and Google Play Music apps, our YouTube channel, as well as through Megaphone and, as always, on iTunes! You can tweet us @BengalsOBI or get in touch with us via email at Thanks for listening and go subscribe to our channels!