Last offseason, Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo said it would be “his worst nightmare” to lose both Jessie Bates III and Vonn Bell.
By mid-March, his worst nightmare came true.
2022 first-round pick Dax Hill stepped into the role previously filled by Bates, and the team signed veteran safety Nick Scott before drafting Jordan Battle in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Hill and Scott would start, but after a less-than-impressive start, Scott would later lose the starting spot to Battle.
Hill has flashed when playing in the box, close to the line of scrimmage. When it comes to playing deeper coverage, he has had his share of struggles. When Rashee Rice torched the Bengals defense on a 67-yard completion, he got past Cam Taylor-Britt, but Anarumo didn’t mince words when talking about Hill’s responsibility on the play.
“Dax Hill. Go over the top, we’re playing cloud,” Lou Anarumo said. “Went the wrong way. He went the wrong way.”
Hill is young. It is his first year playing any sort of significant snaps this season, so growing pains are expected. Anarumo, while blunt, still shows belief in Hill to figure it out.
“I think he’s getting better,” said Anarumo. “I think he shows glimpses of the things that you need to be to do that. But again, really he’s like a rookie. It’s his first year back there. So there’s things we got to clean up.”
When it comes to Battle, fans and coaches alike are excited about his potential. Battle showed many flashes as he began to get more snaps and became one of the most reliable tacklers on the team.
With one more game to learn and grow, there should be plenty of optimism for the young safety room as the team closes out 2023 and moves toward a (hopefully) more successful 2024.