Bengals coordinator: Cornerback Darqueze Dennard 'needs to play more'


CINCINNATI -- As it pertains to his team's setup at cornerback, the Cincinnati Bengals' Paul Guenther is living out a defensive coordinator's dream.

He has such a logjam of talent at the position that good players are being shut out of opportunities. Namely, Darqueze Dennard, last year's first-round draft pick, has had trouble shining in Guenther's scheme simply because of the depth that exists ahead of him.

Adam Jones. Leon Hall. Dre Kirkpatrick. They comprise their own veritable who's who list of past first-round picks. Last season, veteran Terence Newman was part of the group, too.

Despite the position's congestion, Guenther said this week he has to figure out some way to get his youngest first-round corner more chances in his defense.

"The son of a b---- is a tough competitor. I like having him on my side," Guenther said. "He needs to play more."

Exactly how will that happen? That's anybody's guess, including Guenther's.

As long as he can remain healthy, Jones isn't giving up any playing time. Neither is Kirkpatrick, who has had to toil and wait for his own opportunity much like Dennard. It wasn't until this season that Kirkpatrick had a chance to start, following three seasons of life on the Bengals' bench.

Then there's Hall, the nine-year veteran who has played a key role in Cincinnati's nickel packages throughout his career. This season, he expanded his repertoire, playing some safety. That gives the Bengals a measure of versatility and coverage ability in the deepest parts of their secondary. He, too, probably won't see much of a decrease in playing time.

But none of that means Guenther won't try to find additional game-day roles for Dennard.

"The kid can play. The kid's tough. He's got good technique," Guenther said.

After drawing just one snap combined in Cincinnati's second and third games, Dennard was part of 36 in last Sunday's win over Kansas City, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Pro Football Focus said Dennard spent 30 plays in coverage, where he claimed a plus-1.7 coverage grade. Dennard was also credited with a pass deflection to go along with the 33-yard pass that he allowed on just his fourth play of the game. With Jones having sustained a third-quarter groin injury, Dennard played nearly all of the second half.

"It was good to get my feet wet," Dennard said. "[But] I was really pissed off about that ball."

As well as he may have played overall, his big takeaway was the one long reception Jeremy Maclin caught simply because he didn't look for the ball.

"Just got to get my head around," Dennard said. "Try to find the ball a little sooner. Maybe that's the difference between a PBU [pass breakup] or an interception. That right there could take points off the board."

Chiefs kicker Cairo Santos made one of his seven field goals at the end of that drive.

Guenther isn't holding the lone deep ball against Dennard.

"He was a little bit off, he was off on his technique there, but for the most part he tackled well," Guenther said. "There was a play where they ran a wide receiver screen and two guys came out to block him and he got down and took both guys on, cut them, got out of the cut and made the tackle."

That play helped show Guenther something.

"We've got to rotate these guys in," Guenther said. "There's going to be a time when he's going to play every snap if somebody goes down."