Friday, May 9, 2014
Bengal Quick Takes: Dennard's one lesson
By Coley Harvey
At long last, we're beyond the first day of the draft. Pat yourselves on the back, everybody. You made it.
Now the real fun begins. Day 2 is all about the second and third rounds and seeing which talent the Cincinnati Bengals will bring in as they start setting up their middle of the draft boards. As we've seen in recent years, the second round is typically a big one for the Bengals, one where they typically bring in quick contributors. Look no further than 2013 (Giovani Bernard and Margus Hunt) and 2011 (Andy Dalton) to see that. Below, we'll break down a few more of the second-round snags they have made recently.
Speaking of, let's get to this Friday edition of the Quick Takes, shall we?
1. Slipping into Cincy's lap. I mentioned it a little in our live chat Thursday night (by the way, we'll have another chat Friday night for the second and third rounds starting at 6:30 p.m. ET. Join us here on the Bengals blog, won't you?), but I was surprised Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard was still there when the Bengals had their pick at No. 24. I went on record throughout the draft process saying that my favorite of all the cornerbacks was Jason Verrett of TCU, who ended up going 25th to San Diego. And I also mentioned that Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller was the player who I most saw ending up in Cincinnati. Much of the emphasis on Fuller was because it just seemed like there was no chance Dennard would fall deep into the 20s like he did. But it happened, and the Bengals -- who also were a little surprised he dropped into their laps -- couldn't be more glad. The one thing that Fuller already could do that Dennard still has to learn is to trust his hands. Fuller was known to be more of a ball-hawking corner than Dennard. Don't interpret that as a knock on Dennard, though. Otherwise, he's a fundamental player who just won't let many receivers touch the ball, let alone get open enough to draw a throw.
2. Dennard's one lesson. As much as I can applaud the Bengals for making one of the steals of the latter portion of the first round, and as much as I'm curious to see what the young defender can do, I must offer him this one critical piece of advice: Don't be afraid of making, and admitting, to mistakes. Early in his career, they'll happen. His task is to minimize the frequency and scale of them, though. What prompted that message was this statement Dennard made near the close of his conference call with Cincinnati media Thursday night: "I can press, I can blitz, play inside or outside, I'm very smart, have great ball skills -- I don't think I have any weaknesses, to be honest." Rest assured, by NFL standards, you've got one or two weaknesses, Darqueze, and someone in this league will eventually find them. Remember, you're not covering Big Ten receivers anymore. You're covering the best in the world. All of that said, though, there's no knocking a player for being confident; it's typically a hallmark of the great ones.
3. Compared to Hall. You probably saw this all over the Internet late Thursday and Friday morning, but here it is one more time. From the moment they saw him in person, Bengals coaches Paul Guenther and Vance Joseph saw Leon Hall 2.0 in Dennard. Like Hall, Dennard likes to jam. Like Hall, Dennard can stay with the quickest receivers from snap to whistle. Like Hall, Dennard is soft-spoken but speaks assertively when he does talk. Like Hall, Dennard hails from the rugged Big Ten, the college football equivalent of the hard-scrabble AFC North. In one of our reactions to Dennard's drafting Thursday -- by the way, he's the fourth first-round cornerback the Bengals have taken since 2006; only the Jets have that many first-round corners in that span -- I wrote about how Dennard was the perfect cornerback Cincinnati could have brought in to be an understudy at the position, even if he wasn't quite the guy the Bengals had been expecting at No. 24.
4. Time for a second-round steal? Like we mentioned earlier, the second round is where the Bengals have historically made some of their most legitimate draft moves. In addition to Bernard, Hunt and Dalton, the embattled quarterback who started as soon as he arrived, the Bengals also have selected the likes of defensive end Carlos Dunlap, linebacker Rey Maualuga and Pro Bowl offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth in recent second rounds. All three have been key contributors for the lion's share of their careers. Odell Thurman was a second-round linebacker in 2005. Chad Johnson came to the Bengals at 36th overall in 2001. In more distant drafts, Boomer Esiason was a second-round Bengals selection, as was Chris Collinsworth, Ickey Woods, Carl Pickens and Corey Dillon. Some of the more recognizable names in franchise history were taken in this round. Might another be coming when the Bengals pick at No. 55? The last 55th overall pick they had has turned out pretty well: Whitworth.