Projecting Bengals starting safety duo after Dax Hill's move to cornerback

Hill started 17 games at safety for Cincinnati last season.
Cincinnati Bengals v Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals v Baltimore Ravens / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

After selecting Daxton Hill as a unique and adaptable safety in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, the expectation was that he'd step into a prominent role on the backend of the defense. Now, after two seasons and the key additions of Geno Stone and Vonn Bell in free agency, the Bengals and Hill are thrilled with the idea of transitioning him to cornerback

This opens up the possibilities for Hill to truly factor himself in as much as possible. Stout edge speed, crisp footwork and hands, and the ability to line up in or outside the box. It's unknown exactly where Hill will play most of his snaps because, as much as he fits into the slot corner role, the Bengals still have Mike Hilton. The expectation from Zac Taylor is that he will be competing for outside corner against Cam Taylor-Britt and D.J. Turner. 

At Michigan, Hill saw time at cornerback in both the slot and outside roles, so this isn't something rare or unprecedented to him. He's embracing the transition and has expressed that. This could be the move that slowly transitions Hill into Hilton's role. After all, Hill is entering the final year of his contract with the the Bengals.

Expected starting safety tandem

Now, at safety, the expected tandem will be quite interesting. Expect rotations and different snap patterns. However, the Bengals signed former Baltimore Raven Geno Stone to a two-year, $15 million contract. Stone led the AFC in interceptions last season with seven. He also had nine more pass breakups than the season prior for Baltimore. It's hard to imagine a scenario where Stone doesn't see a large portion of snaps at safety as the lead starter. 

Stone truly has elite ball skills. He attacks the football every chance he gets. Sometimes you live with the results when he can't make the play, although more often than not, he's getting his hands on the ball and creating havoc with tipped balls, batted down passes and interceptions. 

Who the other starter will be is the interesting part. You'll surely see both Vonn Bell and Jordan Battle as the season rolls along. But don't be surprised if Jordan Battle comes out of camp with a higher snap count than Bell. Last season Battle racked up 43 tackles, 2.0 sacks, and one interception.

Battle was drafted in the third round out of Alabama in 2023, and in his rookie season, he saw a lot of action and eventually took Nick Scott's role entirely. Battle is young and ascending, and we should see a more polished version of him this season. 

However, Bell has played a lot of really good football for the Bengals in the past and has the experience that the Bengals defense lacks in the secondary outside of Hilton. It will be a very interesting training camp and preseason to see how Lou Anarumo decides to use his three starting-caliber safeties. 

It's likely that the two starters will be a Geno Stone and Jordan Battle with key contributions by Vonn Bell. We could see games where Bell sees more action than Battle, but a lot of what Anarumo ultimately decides to do could be based solely on performance and specific scheme packages depending on who the opposition is on a week-to-week basis. Nonetheless, seeing who comes out of these competitions on top will be one of the most intriguing developments of the Bengals entire off-season.