The Cincinnati Bengals fifth-round pick cornerback Darius Phillips has already begun making plays at OTA’s. Could he contribute early on defense?
The Cincinnati Bengals addressed the cornerback position twice during the 2018 NFL Draft. With two of their fifth-round picks, the team selected Davontae Harris and Darius Phillips to help bolster their secondary depth. Phillips has been a player that has given plenty to be excited about just from his college success, but now is giving off the reason for fans to be excited in rookie minicamp and OTA’s.
According to Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com, veteran cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and rookie cornerback Darius Phillips have already jumped passes thrown by veteran quarterback Andy Dalton in OTA practices. Following his transition from wide receiver to cornerback in his sophomore season at Western Michigan, Phillips was known for being a ballhawk and contesting at the catch point. Hauling in 12 interceptions in his three seasons at the position, he also returned five for touchdowns.
It was portrayed that Phillips would come in and sit behind the veteran trio of cornerbacks Kirkpatrick, Darqueze Dennard, and William Jackson III as he developed with the team. He would contribute on special teams and has competed for roles in returning punts following his successful career on special teams in college. Head coach Marvin Lewis spoke on his return abilities as another reason they brought the young cornerback into the organization.
“We also addressed a guy with return ability, with Darius Phillips, the corner from (Western) Michigan,” Lewis said. “Those were the things we were looking for, that we could fit some guys like that in that would also give us some upside in other areas.”
With Phillips already jumping routes against the veterans, it gives reason to wonder if he will contribute sooner rather than later. Cincinnati could always use more depth at cornerback, and if he can rotate in for some packages or step up in the case of an injury, it would be a huge deal for the rookie who was drafted in the fifth-round. It also ensures that Adam Jones will not be returning for depth cornerback or special teams returning abilities.
While it’s exciting to hear that he is already showing off and impressing coaches in his first meeting with the veteran players, we can’t get ahead of ourselves. We will see how he does over the next couple weeks and during training camp before we see him go up against offenses in the preseason. With Dennard on a fifth-year option, it could be a case that Phillips finds himself being a cheaper option in the slot for the Bengals next season if the team doesn’t extend Dennard.