Latest On Bengals’ Secondary

Breakdowns in the secondary played a key role in the Bengals missing the postseason in 2023, and the team has made a number of moves in that area in recent months. The safety spot has seen the arrival of one veteran (Geno Stone) along with a reunion with another (Vonn Bell).

The latter was in Cincinnati from 2020-22, serving as a full-time starter alongside Jessie Bates during that time. Bell departed last offseason by inking a three-year Panthers pact, although he only wound up playing a single campaign in Carolina. Bell and the Bengals reunited on a one-year deal worth the veteran’s minimum in March.

The 29-year-old is, to no surprise, in line to reprise a starting role in his second Cincinnati stint. Bell took first-team reps during offseason practices, as detailed by Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic (subscription required). He and Stone occupying starter’s workloads would relegate Jordan Battle to a depth/special teams capacity. The 2023 third-rounder logged seven starts last season, but he was one of a number of Bengals defensive backs who struggled in coverage. The additions of Stone and Bell will provide the team with experienced options, although it will be interesting to see if Battle can compete for a full-time defensive gig in training camp.

Of course, one of the other main offseason developments the Bengals have seen is the transition of Dax Hill from safety to perimeter corner. The 2022 first-rounder was lauded for his positional versatility coming out of college, but things have not gone according to plan for him so far. Hill primarily played in the slot when he was used at corner with Michigan, making this summer an important time to acclimate to spending time on the outside.

If Hill manages to get comfortable with his new position, a starting role should await him in the fall. The 23-year-old worked with the first-team defense this spring, per the Dayton Daily News’ Laurel Pfahler. Hill and 2023 second-rounder DJ Turner could be competing for a starter’s spot during camp in a cornerback room which lost Chidobe Awuzie in free agency. Veteran slot man Mike Hilton and 21-game starter Cam Taylor-Britt are still in place from last season.

Cincinnati ranked 31st in the league in passing yards allowed last season, and the play of the team’s secondary will be worth watching closely in 2024. New faces at safety could provide needed stability on the backend while Hill’s success in playing at corner will no doubt go a long way in determining the team’s willingness to pick up his fifth-year option after the season ends. With three years remaining on their respective rookie deals , meanwhile, Battle and Turner will have plenty of time to regain first-team roles if they start the year in a rotational capacity.

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