Darqueze Dennard’s 2017 Roster Spot in Jeopardy

Darqueze Dennard was burned repeatedly in the Bengals’ 19-14 loss to the Ravens this week. Does this play spell trouble for his future in Cincinnati?

Part of knowing your team is out of the playoff picture is assessing what you have (and don’t have) out on the field. Who’s going to be coming back for another year, and who isn’t. Among other things, this week’s game in Baltimore showed that former first-round pick Darqueze Dennard might find himself looking for a job this summer.

Dennard’s Struggles

Since being drafted in 2014, Dennard has been active for 33 games. He’s started just 2 of them. The Bengals are famously slow to give responsibilities to rookies, but as a first round pick in a banged up secondary, it’s still worrying that the coaching staff hasn’t given him more opportunities. Additionally, they continue to draft cornerbacks early as if he isn’t the solution, taking William Jackson III in this past year’s draft.

When Dennard has seen the field, his performance has been inconsistent at best. Sometimes he’s shown potential, but nowhere near the expected level of a first-round pick taken before Jason Verrett. This week, the Ravens exposed how weak his development may actually be, targeting him repeatedly in man coverage and finding success, including their only touchdown of the day.

Reasons He Stays

Despite performance problems, Dennard will inevitably benefit from being drafted in the first round. Teams don’t cut that kind of player often, even if they struggle. The Bengals generally hold onto personnel as long as they can, and Dennard still has a year left on his rookie contract. On top of that, Adam Jones isn’t getting any younger. They’ll need to keep as many corners as possible in hope that one will fill the hole left by his retirement.

Reasons He Goes

Two words. Josh Shaw. The second-year corner out of USC was a 4th round pick in 2014. Dropped in the draft by one of the strangest stories of collegiate athletics in years, Shaw has far outplayed his draft position (and possibly Dennard). Also, Adam Jones is technically signed until 2019. The 33-year-old veteran is gritty enough that he might play all the way through his deal. Once William Jackson III’s torn pectoral muscle heals, he could also threaten to steal a roster spot from Dennard.

Darqueze Dennard will be one of the most interesting players to watch in the upcoming weeks. His performance as the Bengals play out the rest of their lost season will decide if he becomes a starter or a practice squad member. He’ll need to step it up if he hopes to earn any starts in the future.

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