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Dax Hill has big shoes to fill in Bengals secondary

The Bengals are putting a lot of pressure on the second-year DB to fill the void left by Jessie Bates III.

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AFC Divisional Playoffs - Cincinnati Bengals v Buffalo Bills Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals have seen more turnover in the defensive backfield this offseason than any in recent memory. Jessie Bates III is off to the Atlanta Falcons, and Vonn Bell will take his snaps with the Carolina Panthers. Two leaders of the Bengals’ recent success are now gone.

Insert Dax Hill.

Daxton Hill

  • Height: 6’0”
  • Weight: 192
  • Age: 22
  • College: University of Michigan
  • Hometown: Tulsa, OK
  • Experience: 1 year

Cap Status

Hill is in the second year of his four-year, $11.6 million rookie contract. He carries a $2.6 million cap hit in 2023, per Over The Cap.


Hill was drafted 31st overall by the Bengals in the 2020 NFL Draft, in a move that appeared to be the team preparing for Bates’ departure. Hill didn’t see much playing time in the 2022 season, but the versatility he showed at Michigan was shown at times. He has the ability to play deep safety, box safety, and even took reps at cornerback as the Bengals dealt with injuries. He contributed on special teams as well.

The stat line from Hill’s rookie season isn’t robust, but without seeing the field much, that is to be expected. Hill recorded 11 solo tackles, five assisted tackles, and one quarterback hit. Appearing sparingly in 15 games, we don’t have much tape on Hill. In 150 defensive snaps in the regular season and postseason, Hill earned a 56.0 PFF grade. However, only 20 of those were at free safety.

Again, due to injuries, Hill spent a lot of time at slot cornerback and wide cornerback, where he played 101 combined snaps last year. Look for him to play much better now that he’s set to play almost exclusively at free safety.

During the 2023 preseason, Hill and the rest of the starting defense barely played at all. However, we did see him for a series in Week 1 vs. the Packers, a game in which he made a highlight-reel pass defense that showcased his elite speed to track the ball down and prevent a touchdown.

Hill would play for a series the following week vs. the Falcons as well and ended up logging 38 preseason snaps, earning a standout 80.9 PFF grade.

Granted, it was a small sample size, but he was in the game when the Packers and Falcons both had their starting offenses on the field. Hopefully, it ends up being a preview of what turns into a solid first season as a full-time starter in the NFL.

Outlook for 2022

Hill is looking to make his mark on the Bengals defense, as he will take over for the departed Bates. The safety group added Nick Scott, who currently is starting in Bell’s old spot, and Jordan Battle, who could challenge Scott.

When it comes to the free safety spot left by Bates, Hill is in firm control and should maintain this starting spot for the foreseeable future. When the Bengals head north to face the Cleveland Browns in Week 1, Hill will easily be one of the most important players to watch for in what will be his first regular-season start at the position.