Two premium draft picks plus an underrated free agent acquisition added to the triumphant return of Chidobe Awuzie.
Add that up, and all of a sudden, the Cincinnati Bengals have a very deep cornerback room.
With the massive turnover at the safety position, the Bengals defense could experience some growing pains early in the season. This cornerback group is here to chase Alan Thicke and his son
Robin Kirk Cameron out the door, so something great can arise. (Not unlike Leonardo DiCaprio coming out of that show).
Let’s take a look.
- Eli Apple
- Tre Flowers
- DJ Turner (Second Round NFL Draft Pick)
- Sidney Jones IV (Free Agency)
- DJ Ivey (Seventh-Round NFL Draft Pick)
Despite the departure of Eli Apple, the Bengals return three starters at cornerback in Chidobe Awuzie, Mike Hilton, and Cam Taylor-Britt.
After missing most of the 2022 season with an injury, Awuzie will look to get back to his previous form while entering the final year of his contract. He is joined by slot cornerback Hilton, who remains a stabilizing force and leader in the secondary.
Cam Taylor-Britt had some growing pains of his own as a rookie, but rain or shine the group stayed together sharing the laughter and love. He did some excellent things as the year went on and improved every week. Look for him to make a big jump in year two. This year, he is joined by DJ Turner, a tremendous athlete and highly skilled tactician from the school up north.
The group is rounded out with a couple more dependable veterans in Sidney Jones IV and Jalen Davis, as well as the young, promising pair of DJ Ivey and Allan George (Though I have done absolutely no research on the subject, I am confident that he was not named after Alan Thicke).
- Outside Cornerbacks: Chidobe Awuzie, Cam Taylor-Britt, DJ Turner, Sidney Jones IV, Allan George, DJ Ivey
- Slot Cornerbacks: Mike Hilton, Jalen Davis
Battles to Watch
Allan George vs. DJ Ivey
George became a bit of a fan favorite last season, which is no easy task for an undrafted cornerback. Outside of interceptions, cornerbacks are usually only noticed when they get beat. George showed some potential, but it is not getting any easier to make this roster, particularly at the cornerback position. Ivey has been praised for his raw talent and he could push George for one of the last roster spots. It will likely come down to who can stand out on special teams.
Jalen Davis vs. the field
The Bengals brought Davis back to be the backup slot cornerback, but it will be interesting to see if a contender arises from the outside cornerback group. Sidney Jones has some experience in this area, and his man coverage skills make him an intriguing option. It also could be a good role for George or Ivey as they look to carve out a niche.
Taylor-Britt showed some serious potential in year one and should make a big jump in his sophomore campaign. Awuzie’s return from injury seems to be on track, but it will be an adjustment early on as he looks to shake off the rust. He is in a contract year and will be looking to put his best work on film to get a big payday.
If Awuzie is not 100% by September, we could see Jones IV make the first few starts. Jones is a talented, experienced cornerback who has had some bad injury luck in the past. He actually shares a lot of DJ Turner’s traits, but he has the experience that Turner lacks. The team may not want to throw Turner into the fire in Week 1 and risk damaging his confidence, making Jones an excellent option.
Mike Hilton will continue his work in the slot, but it will be interesting to see what else happens on the inside. With Tre Flowers gone, there is an opportunity for a new dime package player to emerge. This could be a role for a safety, but it could also be an opportunity to let Turner see some live action.
Everything comes back to Joe Burrow. How can the team pay him while fielding a competitive team around him?
In order to do that, you need to save money in other areas, and having rookie contracts at premiere positions is a big part of that. As a result, the Bengals have made moves to get younger and cheaper on defense, particularly at cornerback, but fortunately, they have gotten faster in the process.
Taylor-Britt was selected in Round 2 a year ago, and just as he made his first start over Apple, Awuzie went down for the season. Apple is out, and Awuzie returns, but he is in the final year of his deal. 2023 second Round pick Turner is his heir apparent, but if Awuzie can return to his previous form this will not be a transition that happens this season.
Taylor-Britt and Turner are the future, and the future looks bright. Both are incredible athletes and heavy hitters. Their similarities paint a clear picture of what the Bengals are looking for in a cornerback, and it will be fun to see that vision become a reality.