This offseason featured the Cincinnati Bengals revamping their defensive backfield that struggled across the board last season.
The current projected starters at cornerback have yet to play a snap in a Bengals uniform, as the team added Mike Hilton and Chidobe Awuzie in free agency. Trae Waynes has been around the team for the past year, but he was out all of last season with a torn pectoral.
Despite that issue, Ben Linsey of Pro Football Focus ranks the unit 15th in the NFL. Here is what he had to say regarding the teams secondary:
“A collection of secondary starters that includes Trae Waynes, Chidobe Awuzie, Mike Hilton and Vonn Bell won’t necessarily scare opposing offenses, Linsey wrote. “But there aren’t many weak links in this group, either. The Bengals have done a good job of solidifying the unit through free agency over the past two offseasons.”
The main reason Linsey and others have faith in this unit though is that they are built around a star free safety in Jessie Bates III.
“Jessie Bates III is the star of the unit and will instill fear into quarterbacks,” Lindsey wrote. “The 2018 second-round pick out of Wake Forest is in the conversation for best free safety in the NFL. Bates’ 12 forced incompletions in 2020 were three more than any other safety in the league.”
With Bates leading the way, there is good reason for Bengals fans to be excited about this unit coming into the 2021 season though.
This unit has all of the makings to make strides forward from the last several seasons. Now it’s just piecing together how this team flows through a 17-game season.