The Bengals signing cornerback B.W. Webb was one of their more logical moves from this offseason.
Webb had one of his best seasons of his career last season under Cincinnati’s new defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo when he was with the Giants last season. The Bengals also hadn’t re-signed Darqueze Dennard at the time, so they had a huge hole at nickel corner.
Cincinnati did ultimately bring back Dennard on a one-year contract, and most of us thought that was the end of Webb being viewed as a starter next season. ESPN’s Katherine Terrell thinks Webb has made the most of his opportunity:
Webb was presumed to take over Darqueze Dennard’s slot corner spot when Dennard remained unsigned earlier in the offseason, then appeared to go back to the No. 2 spot once Dennard’s deal was done. Now that’s not quite so clear. Dennard has been sidelined from practice during OTAs and the first part of minicamp, and coach Zac Taylor specifically pointed out Webb as one of the offseason standouts so far. This could come down to a competition for the starting spot during training camp.
The possibility that Webb could even turn this into a competition is impressive. He has a three-year contract, so it is safe to say that he will at some point be the starter if Dennard decides to part ways with the Bengals next offseason.
The thing we have to realize is Dennard isn’t really owed anything by this new coaching staff. They had no part in drafting him, though Duke Tobin did and he remains with the franchise. Webb obviously has a stronger connection to this staff, and it doesn’t hurt that he has been healthy and showing off.
The NFL is very much a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately institution, and Cincinnati is in a weird place where all players have pretty much a blank slate for better or worse. Dennard has some ground to make up whenever he gets back on the field during training camp.
This is an important season for him. Instead of settling on the open market after reportedly not receiving the offers he was expecting, he decided to return to the Bengals and maximize his worth for a long-term deal next offseason. Losing your starting job before the season starts isn’t a great start.
Dennard’s best trait is his tackling ability. Some may brush that off, but that has become a very crucial ability for nickel corners to have as more and more teams are running out of three-wide receiver sets. He also has more of an ability to play the boundary than than Webb, who struggled more often there compared to when he was in the slot for the Giants last season.
Still, Dennard isn’t out of any competition, and this probably just confirms the cornerback position is going to be one of the deepest for the Bengals. Whether Dennard or Webb starts, the Bengals won’t be an injury away from being thin at their starting three corners.
Webb turning this into an actual competition would really benefit the Bengals’ secondary as a whole. Dennard and Webb pushing each other will just bring out the best in both of them, and who ever doesn’t get it will be a quality depth player. We’re going to keep tabs on this, and you should too.