2. Rookie Class
Dax Hill, Cam Taylor-Britt, and Tycen Anderson each ran a 4.3 40 on their way to being drafted by the Bengals. That speed will come in handy while covering receivers, of course. However, look for that speed to also cause havoc in offensive backfields.
Last year, NFL quarterbacks averaged 2.78 seconds to release the ball. The three secondary players who Cincinnati selected in the draft only need, in theory, around 2.15 seconds to get to the QB. Hill, in particular, is already very adept at blitzing from the slot. His addition should unlock Mike Hilton to do more of what he excelled at as a Steeler, which is blitzing from the secondary.
Look for Hill, Anderson, and Taylor-Britt to apply pressure from their respective safety and cornerback spots.
An undrafted rookie to keep an eye on in this area is Brenden “Bookie” Radley-Hiles. The Bengals plan on using him as a slot corner-safety hybrid. A solid tackler and hard hitter, he is also very good at crashing down on run plays and providing pressure from the slot against the pass.
Radley-Hiles is yet another versatile addition to the defense that will seek to get after the quarterback in potentially unconventional ways. And in an improved defensive backfield, this could set him apart from the rest of the pack in what will surely be a highly contested camp battle.
Furthermore, look for third-round pick Zachary Carter to provide pressure from the defensive tackle position. The former Florida Gator defensive end is making a move to the interior of the defensive line. The Bengals are counting on him to use his athleticism and quickness to beat guards quickly off the snap and chase down quarterbacks in passing situations.
Carson Wells and Clarence Hicks are pass-rushing linebackers who showed a propensity for getting to the quarterback in college. Each would be an excellent complement to the all-around backers in Logan Wilson and Germaine Pratt. Like Radley-Hiles, their ability to sack the quarterback could be the difference in one of them making the final 53.