Lastly and most importantly, starting free safety Reggie Nelson has quietly been one of the most consistent entities of the secondary since the beginning of this Bengals Renaissance. However, it’s very notable that this player (who spear-tackles to the degree of being a penalty liability) had no legitimate back-up on this roster when the season began.
Without the real emergence of late rounders or undrafted free agents during training camp and throughout the preseason, the Cincinnati selected a relatively low amount of corners to the 53-man roster in order to buffer the safety position.
Week 5’s resigning of 33-year old veteran Chris Crocker is, on one hand, a stop-gap measure, but it also brings about several shades of versatility. Experience as a strong safety and a nickel corner make him a serviceable back-up to Jones as well as Iloka, and in the off-chance that Nelson was to go down, Iloka could move over to his college position with Crocker capable of covering there as well. In short, Crocker effectively provides depths for three positions as once! While this sounds great on paper, it turns drastically ugly if it has to be put into play because once employed; depth very quickly goes to zero across the entire secondary.
Crocker has been cut for two straight seasons, so the assumption that he is not part of the long-term plan is a fairly easy one to make. Hall remains under contract through the 2015 season, but Newman is in a contract year and may not be extended as he will be 36 next year. Grumblings about it being time for Cincinnati to cut ties with Jones have already began, but unless Kirkpatrick comes blithely into his own, that might not be as easy an option as some may think.