Another position in which the Bengals are currently very deep is cornerback. The Bengals generally keep six cornerbacks on their final 53-man roster. They have eight different corners that should make this team. However, it does appear that former third round selection, Brandon Ghee may be heading for the injured reserve list and this year’s fifth round selection, Shaun Prater may do the same. If that is the case, then the six former first round selections will be the six corners kept on this roster throughout the season.
Let’s say, for arguments sake that these two players could be cleared to play early in the regular season. Shaun Prater is a nice talent and should develop into a solid contributor in the secondary. Moving him to the practice squad seems to be ideal, however, Cincinnati needs to be very cautious about that move as other teams with needs at cornerback may swoop in and grab him before the Bengals can get him back on the team. Brandon Ghee has had the best off-season of his young career and had all but earned himself a roster spot before his wrist injury. If Ghee can get healthy, then the Bengals have a tougher decision to make.
Incumbent starter, Leon Hall will remain as the team’s top cornerback as he is one of the best in the league. Nate Clements has shown that he can still play in situations on a number two receiver and has also been used at the safety position in certain packages. Jason Allen is exactly the same; he can cover very well at corner, but can also play the safety position if asked. That versatility will ensure roster spots for both of these players. This year’s first round draft pick, Dre Kirkpatrick will also be a lock for a roster spot as the Bengals will continue to develop him into a starting cornerback for years to come. Terence Newman, one of defensive coordinator, Mike Zimmer’s favorite corners also seems to be a lock for the final roster. Zimmer has constantly praised how Newman has been playing lately, saying that he is playing his best since he first came into the league. Finally, Pacman Jones has lots of versatility as a nickel corner and a punt returner. Jones has proven that he belongs ever since he came to Cincinnati.
So there are six locks for the final 53-man roster. If Ghee and/or Prater are healthy enough to play this season, the Bengals will have a tough decision to make. Do they keep seven cornerbacks or do they risk losing one of these players to another team? If they keep seven cornerbacks, what position do they cut down on? Linebacker is full of inexperienced players and the defensive line has been decimated with injuries. A possibility is keeping one less safety, as there are cornerbacks on the roster that can fill that void if necessary.