The selection of Darqueze Dennard at 24th overall during the first round of this year’s NFL Draft was nothing short of a godsend. Depletions, age, and injuries within the Bengals cornerback ranks had elevated gradual concern to a status of near necessity. Dennard’s physicality and skill set fit perfectly into what the Bengals do downfield, and by all accounts, he is progressing extremely well. But is the addition of one starting caliber corner, a rookie nonetheless, enough to stem the pre-draft concern, or is Dennard’s development, regardless of how promising, just a paper tiger?
The answer, as with any team, comes down to its potential to maintain high levels of productivity on any given Sunday; in other words, sustainable depth. Current projections show Cincinnati as one of the top secondaries in the NFL, but as Leon Hall reminded us last season, that can be challenged in the blink of an eye. Thus, durability within an aging corps of defensive backs begs the question: how many injuries can Bengals sustain before their pass defense reaches critical mass?
It goes without saying that Hall will remain an x-factor, probably going into Week One. The most recent reports suggest the 8-year veteran is in the final stages of rehab, the result of an injury against the Detroit Lions in Week Seven last fall. Even if Hall is ready to go, this is his second Achilles tendon tear. The recovery season after his first tear (2012) showed a noticeable dip in his production, and he did not truly return to form until the final weeks into the post season. Yes, it is hard to say if Hall will be the best candidate for starting come the opener in Baltimore, but additionally his durability going forward, while promising, must be considered tenuous.