The Guenther Factor: Part III – Still Secondary?
Jan 5, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (27) before the AFC wild card playoff football game at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports
If Hall is the first suspect talent, then the second must be Terrance Newman. Newman will turn 36 just days after the end of the preseason, but to be fair, Newman’s production has remained solid in two seasons in Cincinnati. True, last season saw a reduction in combined tackles (75 in 2012 to 52 in 2013), but this was because of a reduction in assisted tackles, which declined by a net value of 15 between the two seasons. Not a sign of declining play, those numbers were the product of Newman handling receivers one-on-one without help over the top from safeties, which is reflected in a 40% increase in passes defended last year. In short, nothing about his game suggests that Newman is taking a step back, however; with his age, declining returns could factor in at any time.
To some extent the youth on this team also represents an unpredictable aspect. Dre Kirkpatrick, 2012’s first round pick, has yet to immerge as a dependable defensive back. Reports from camp have surfaced suggesting Kirkpatrick has been struggling, showing difficulty covering slot receivers as well as playing as a converted safety. His game day ability remains suspect at best. Meanwhile, George Iloka is maturing well at strong safety, and while he is favored as the incumbent at the position he still has aspects of his game that can be developed.
What most people overlook behind Hall and Newman is the redefined Adam Jones. Jones has been a workhorse for the Bengals since coming to the team in 2010 and has steadily increased his numbers each year. Last season, Jones started 13 games, logged more tackles than any other cornerback on the roster, notched 12 passes defended, and netted 3 interceptions. To put this in perspective, the only season in which Jones was more productive than 2013 was 2006, his second year in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans. Nonetheless, the knock against Jones has been his overly physical play, leading to costly pass interference penalties. While a fair critique, Jones’ numbers did decrease in that regard last season, despite the fact that he was continually asked to cover large, downfield threats rather than smaller slot receivers in his more natural nickel corner role.