Wide receiver is one of the worst positions on the Cowboys this season. The Bengals can exploit that matchup and allow their backup CBs to flourish.
One area that has been a major concern for the Bengals all training camp has been the backup cornerback position. The rookies especially have struggled, which has led the team to worry whether there is sufficient depth behind the three starters. Fortunately, tonight’s game against the Cowboys may be the perfect opportunity for the backups to showcase their talent.
After getting a bunch of run against the Bears, the starters should get a breather tonight. I wouldn’t expect William Jackson III, Dre Kirkpatrick, or Darqueze Dennard to play more than two or three series. This will give the backup cornerbacks plenty of time to prove themselves to the front office.
The biggest boon for these corners, though, is the weak Dallas wide receiving core. The Bengals should be able to take advantage of the lack of talent among Dallas wide receivers and test their corners in 1-on-1 coverage. Aside from veterans Allen Hurns, Terrance Williams, and Cole Beasley – who likely won’t play much – the Cowboys don’t have many great receiving options.
Michael Gallup, a third round rookie this year, will be featured tonight, and may change for a starting role. He may be the toughest matchup, so watch for KeiVarae Russell to draw some coverage on him. Russell impressed against Chicago, so the Bengals will likely want to see if he can keep it up against a talented rookie.
The Cowboys also have some speedster receivers in Tavon Austin and KD Cannon. Austin has bounced to Dallas after a rough tenure with the Rams, and Cannon is trying to stick in the NFL. Both have blazing speed, though, which could be a good test for all these backup corners. Notably, Bengals fifth round rookie Davontae Harris could use some reps against speedy guys to work on his deep ball coverage.
Another guy who should get some reps for the Cowboys is journeyman receiver Deonte Thompson. A good intermediate range target, Thompson has been all around the league the last few years. Still, he has a good combination of size, speed, and route running to make the younger corners work to cover him. Thompson may be an interesting matchup for the more veteran backup corners on the Bengals like CJ Goodwin and Tony McRae.
Lastly, a couple UDFAs in Darren Carrington and Mekale McKay (a former Bearcat) could pose an interesting size threat to the Bengals’ corners. Carrington and McKay are both over 6’2″, so they have the size advantage over basically every corner. Fifth round rookie Darius Phillips will hopefully match up with these guys, as he needs to work on his positioning. As a shorter, more raw corner, he needs good positioning in order to successfully defend these taller guys.
Overall, the Dallas wide receiving core doesn’t consist of a bunch of stars, but there are a diversity of threats at the position. The Bengals should get a really good test from them, and should be able to see which backup corners are most ready to contribute. This could be a critical game in deterring which corners make the final roster.