Back in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Bengals organization and fans felt like they had just snagged the best corner in the draft. The thought of pairing Dre Kirkpatrick with Dennard reminded fans of the good old days when Leon Hall and Johnathan Josephwere shutting down opposing teams in Orange & Black stripes.
From the start, Dennard was buried on the depth chart. Even Kirkpatrick was barely sniffing the field. Terence Newman, Adam Jones and Hall manned the starting positions. Three years later and the names have changed, but Dennard’s position has not.
Injuries sidelined him for his first few seasons and the Bengals continued to do what they do best: draft first round cornerbacks. Hey, you can never have too many good cornerbacks. The Bengals took that philosophy and held true to it, when they selected William Jackson III in the 2016 NFL Draft and Josh Shaw in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Despite Jackson being out for the season due to a training camp injury, Shaw proved that he could man the slot corner position–a position that was supposed to be Dennard’s. However, one thing needs to be made clear. Just because an athlete plays corner does not mean they will be a good “slot” corner. Dennard is a boundary corner. He was a shutdown corner at Michigan because he played on the boundary. Wide receivers can only go two different directions on the boundary and Dennard plays them really well because of it.
Apparently, it has to do with a pecking order for the corners or the position doesn’t suit Dennard’s skill set. That brings us to the beloved Jones.
Boy oh boy. You either love and accept Jones or you hate him and want him gone. There’s no in-between. I, for one, am a Jones lover. I love the energy, anger and aggressiveness he brings to the Bengals. Jones paired with Vontaze Burfict you have to wonder who’s Martin Lawrence and who’s Will Smith because those two are the Bad Boy Bengals.
Although, with his latest incident, Jones has been suspended for the season opener. This made me wonder. Is Pacman’s Cincinnati run coming to an end? And if so, is it finally time to see Dennard on the outside?
The Bengals picked up Dennard’s fifth-year option, which is a strong indication that his time may be coming. Looking at Kirkpatrick’s career, it’s been similar to Dennard: buried on the depth chart, slow start due to injuries, contract option picked up before he really proved himself and now the Bengals No.1 corner.
If Kirkpatrick’s career is any indication–paired with Jones suspension, contract and age–Cincinnati could be seeing a lot out of Dennard this season. Hopefully, he maximizes his opportunity. One thing is for sure, William Jackson III will be working for the spot as well. We’ll see, during training camp, who’s ready.