With a secondary including Reggie Nelson, George Iloka, Leon Hall, Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick the Bengals have boasted a great defense and a very effective secondary. However, Nelson, Hall and Jones were all looking at the back end of their careers going into the 2014 NFL Draft, so the drafting of Dennard certainly wasn’t a surprise.
Despite being a first rounder, Dennard was acknowledged as a player who had a high ceiling but wasn’t really in a position to step into the starting line-up right away. Now, he is entering his third season and the Bengals have waved goodbye to Nelson and seemingly Leon Hall, so not only is he due to reach his ceiling, but the Bengals need him to too.
Now, you may be thinking “but the Bengals drafted Will Jackson III in the first round, so he’ll start with Kirkpatrick”, not so fast. Jackson, a lot like Dennard, is regarded as a bit of a project – he likely won’t be a starter this year. Furthermore, in the first half of the season last year, Dennard looked capable enough to start for a deep Bengals secondary. This was even before Jackson tore his pectoral muscle, which will keep him out for quite a while.
In all likelihood then, Kirkpatrick and Dennard will be the starters on the outside, with Jones moving into the slot with his age increasing. If so, Dennard’s traits that made him such an appealing prospect will be fully on show and with that opportunity I wouldn’t be surprised to see him capitalise fully on that opportunity. He is a very good press-man corner and he has good anticipation and reactions, all traits that put him in a very good position to succeed in the current NFL. Don’t be surprised if he takes a little time adjusting to a starting role, but don’t be too surprised either if by the end of the season he is one of the more effective second corners in the NFL.