Fifteen guys competing for about nine slots makes it seem like the odds are in their favor. However, some players already have guaranteed starts, whereas others will be lucky to make the cut for the practice squad. It’s another round of Bengals roster competition and we’re taking a look at the defensive backs.
Please look out for other competition articles.
- Running backs, offensive line
- Wide receiver, tight end, quarterbacks
- Defensive line and linebackers
- Special teams
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Cornerback is a highly prized position the Bengals target consistently in the draft. This year makes no difference as the Bengals have stacked this offseason at the cornerback position. In the first release of the depth chart, the Bengals currently have eight players on the chart. While many of the players at corner have their position secured, the battles are for moving up on the roster, while few are attempting to be noticed. So while there is a lot of talent, there is also a lot to lose.
Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick are guaranteed starters for the Bengals. Jones may be suspended for week one, but he looks to elevate the team in their 2017 campaign. But don’t be surprised if he lives up to his reputation of being a controversial corner this season. Kirkpatrick was a targeted player by the Bengals in the offseason. The Bengals may have overpaid for his services, he still has the ability to make plays.
The first battle is for three corner packages between Josh Shaw and William Jackson III. While Shaw does have more experience, as Jackson had to sit out his first season on the injured reserve (IR) list due to a pectoral injury he suffered in preseason last year. Now healed, both will have an opportunity to see who will see more action this season. Losing Adam Jones for a week benefits Jackson. For now, Jackson is slotted as the backup for Jones.
Bene Benwikere, Tony McRae, Darqueze Dennard, and KeiVarae Russell are the last four fighting for one, maybe two slots. The only optimism these four have is that with Jones suspended, the team can add another corner to week 1 against the Ravens. That being said, week two, most of these corners will be cut. Dennard has the advantage over the other corners. He is the only first rounder in this group and has had time to grow and develop in the Bengals system. Russell does have experience on the field, but he will still need to show his value during the preseason as a corner and maybe special teams as well as a gunner. The two with the lowest chances of making the roster are Benwikere and McRae. However, if the Bengals do decide to hold on to another corner, expect the Bengals to keep Russell.
The news came fast out of training camp when not one, but two safeties were injured in the same day. While Derron Smith has been able to continue training, George Iloka’s injury has him sidelined for at least three to four weeks. This forced the Bengals to sign Cedric Thompson. Thompson appears to be more of an insurance policy, rather than a roster contender and is expected to be cut. But if he competes hard enough in practice, it is possible that the Bengals continue to keep him around to see what he does on the defensive end or on special teams.
With Shawn Williams getting the nod to start at strong safety, that leaves Clayton Fejedelem, Brandon Wilson, Demetrious Cox to compete for the remaining slots. Fejedelem has the experience being on the field, but the Bengals may move on and keep Wilson. He was a running back, corner, and has experience on special teams as well. Wilson also has the benefit of the Bengals trading up to snag him in the draft. This background could be enough to knock Fejedelem off the roster. If Wilson makes the roster, Fejedelem and Cox would compete for the practice squad. Given Fejedelem’s experience and the Bengals’ reputation of preferring veterans, Cox does not have the edge to earn a slot on the practice squad.
As a reminder, NFL rules stipulate that a team is only allowed to have at most ten players on their practice squad. With a chunk of that already coming from the offensive side of the ball, do not expect many defensive backs, if any, to be listed. First preseason game of the season is on August 11 against Tampa Bay. Time to find out what we have for backups in the backfield.