Bengals Player Preview: Victor Hampton

Victor Hampton

Height: 5’9″

Weight: 197 lbs

Age: 22

College: University of South Carolina

Hometown: Charlotte, NC

Even the biggest Bengals fans might not know the Victor Hampton story.  Unless you bleed orange and black and love draft prospects, you probably don’t know much about Victor Hampton.  You’re in luck, I happen to be one of those weirdo’s that watches tape of prospects, and fans think lives in my parents basement and eats Totino’s pizza rolls.

As an undrafted free agent, like all of his fellow UDFAs, he is a longshot to make the squad.  He does have one thing on his side, that’s talent.  He is not an UDFA that was not selected because he cant play and is invited to be a camp body.

Hampton has a checkered past and teams passed on him because they didn’t want to use a pick on a guy who might bring a distraction to camp. He even lost his starting job because of poor effort last year, even though he was clearly the most talented cover corner.

If you like Vontaze because he talks trash, well then you will love Hampton, as he is a chatterbox.

Hampton  has great instincts from the CB position and is excellent at tracking the ball in the air.  He needs to work on his consistency in his run support.  He is not big enough to just throw his body at people, which he does, and he rarely wraps guys up.

I wont get into too much detail on his game play he will be one of the UDFA featured in my article that will come out right before camp.  It will go over all of the UDFA with my typical play breakdowns and analysis.  He played in 8 games as a junior totaling 43 tackles and 3 INTs.  He did return some punts for South Carolina last year but didn’t have much success, so I don’t suspect that he will be used in the role for the Bengals.

Its going to be tough for him to crack this lineup at CB, especially with all the 1st rounder’s in front of him.  With Dennard, Jones, Newman, Hall, and Kirpatrick all locks to make the roster, that leave the rest of the guys to fight for likely one roster spot.

It will be quite the uphill battle for all of them.  If Hampton stays out of trouble and shows flashes of his talent, it will come down to him and Westbrooks for the last spot.  He will need to have success in the slot in his preseason games to win the last spot.  That is the best spot for him to backup with his skillset, and his small build wont matter as much against smaller slot receivers.

 

If there is a sting of injuries, look for Hampton to have a real shot at the roster.  A spot could open up if Hall is not fully recovered for the start of camp, let’s hope it is not the case but that could be another way for a spot to open.  Hampton may feel like Sisyphus in camp, but if he keeps putting in work he will at least get a spot on the practice squad, if not picked up by another team.

Video link via gamecocksonline.com

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Cincinnati Bengals Player Preview: Linebacker Vontaze Burfict

Vontaze Burfict

Height: 6’1″

Weight: 248 lbs

Age: 23

College: Arizona State University

Hometown: Corona, CA

Experience: 3 Years

If you have turned on a Bengals game the last two years, you know who Vontaze Burfict is. He led the team in tackles for the last 2 years. In 2013 he lead the team by nearly 100 tackles, and more importantly, led the team by 62 solo tackles. He doesn’t miss in the open field, and that is extremely clutch.

Burfict finished the year with 174 tackles, 114 solo, 3 sacks and a forced fumble. He is the most important guy on the defensive side of the ball.  He is in charge of calling all the plays and getting people lined up correctly, something Maualuga struggled with.

Most astonishing with Burfict is where he was drafted, or for that matter, that he was not drafted.  He was a 5-star recruit coming out of high school on both Rival and ESPN’s rankings, and was the No.1 MLB recruit in the country.  His attitude, penalties, weight gain, poor pro day, and terrible combine left a sour taste in many teams’ mouths.

This year, we can expect that Vontaze will be back at his WLB spot barring a major plague of injuries at LB before the season.  So what can the else can King Tez do to make himself better in 2014?  It will be hard for him to add much more to his 174 tackles from 2013, but he could improve a bit in his pass coverage.

His biggest issue is still penalties, and by that I mean he needs to work on eliminating them. I do think that referees target him and he gets a few cheap ones each year that totally bogus, but some he definitely deserves. Having James Harrison to learn from last year really helped him to walk that fine line between being intimidating and being penalized.

As his linebacker coach Paul knew how to get the most out of Vontaze, this year will be no different. Paul will lean on Vontaze to be his eyes and ears on the field, consulting with him for in game adjustments.

When Thomas Howard went down with a torn ACL in Week 2 of 2013, 3 days before the next game, Guenther had to scramble. Take your best athlete and teach him a new position, how he did that is just remarkable. He took to the gym at Paul Brown Stadium with chairs to teach Tez the basics of playing WLB.

Guenther is reportedly the one that was the mastermind of most of the exotic blitzes that Zimmer ran, so expect to see Tez blitzing more this year. His instincts make him great and it is the reason that opposing offenses fear him, he finds the ball and often.

He is so important to this teams success because he makes plays that swing the momentum of the game, like the forced fumble TD versus the Browns.  That game had a chance of going sour fast with the early INTs by Dalton, but the defense quickly took the wind right out of the Browns’ sails.

Marvin Lewis has made many references to Vontaze being “special” and that he looks a lot like “another guy he has coached in the past,” referring to Ray Lewis.

My prediction 160 tackles, 105 solo, 4.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and 2 interceptions.

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AFC/NFC North chat, would you swap Josh Gordon for Andre Johnson if you were Ray Farmer

What to do with Josh Gordon? Will he get his life straight? Is he the next Odell Thurman?

What teams in the NFC and AFC North are the best fits for Andre Johnson?

We discuss all of that, so just tune in below!

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/nationalgridironnetwork/2014/07/11/the-coldfront-with-jason-marcum

Victor Hampton

Victor Hampton can he shed his past for his Bengals future?

Victor Hampton-CB (South Carolina)
Height: 5’9” Weight: 197 lbs
Bench press reps: 20 (top marks for CB)
40 yard Dash: 4.51 Vertical leap: 33.5″ 

Initial Thoughts: He is a talented player, but after watching the tape I can see why teams passed on him.  He had off the field issues and struggles to support the run.  When the ball is in the air he is one of the best players that I watched at competing for the ball.  I think he will do really well in the slot in the NFL.  He will need to work on his run support and man coverage.  In the slot he will mostly be in on passing plays, where he excels.  With the additions of Dennard and Westbrooks this year I only give Hampton a 5% chance to make the 53 man this year. I think the Bengals will want him to prove he can stay out of trouble for a year and stash him on the Practice Squad.  I give him a 100% chance to make the PS as long as he stays out of trouble. If he doesn’t clear waivers and a team scoops him up, it not really a loss since he was a UDFA.  He could take Newman or Adam Jones role in 2015 if he is still with the Bengals.

Strengths: Has great instincts and breaks on the ball well.  He is exceptional at tracking and contesting balls in the air.  Lives in the big moment and plays with swagger, gets in the competitions head with his chatter. Plays well in zone coverage and has good hands for deflecting passes and INTs.  Has lots of talent and physical ability.  Has experience in the slot and on the outside so he is versatile.   Has good quickness and fluidity of his hips, he had one of the fastest 3 cone times.

Weaknesses: He lacks the size to effectively contribute in run support, he rarely finishes a tackle.  His aggressive approach to going to make tackles causes him to miss a lot of them and take bad angles.  He tries to push guys out of bounds or wait for help from his teammates.  He doesn’t show the interest in supporting the run, it is something you have to want to do, he doesn’t.  Character concerns go all the way back to high school with him; he will need to keep himself out of trouble to have a shot.  The first sniff of a problem and he will be sent packing instantly.  He is very chirpy on the field; he will need to walk the line with this to avoid penalties.  Really needs to work on his man to man coverage, he lacks ideal top end speed.  His small stature makes if difficult for him to play bump and run coverage successfully, and can get caught up in blocks.

Key Plays vs Arkansas:  (note: lost his starting job before this game)

1) Dances around the running back on the play, allows his teammate to make the hit and tackle (0:24)
2) Reads the QBs eyes and breaks on the pass for the INT.  Has a decent runback on after the catch as well. (0:33)
3) Working out of the slot he flies up to make the tackle and whiffs. (1:35)
4) Fails to breakdown on the play and the RB shakes him with a stutter step.  He flails at the RB to make the tackle and falls on his back unsuccessfully. (2:00)
5) He is responsible for holding the backside edge.  The runner cuts back he breaksdown and just throws his pads at him and doesn’t wrap up (2:14)
6) He has a chance to stop a big play with an open field tackle, he dives at his feet and whiffs completely.  The runner gets an extra 25 yards.

Key Plays vs Mississippi State:
1) He does a great job of sitting in his zone coverage and breaking up the throw as it arrives.  As a result his teammate is able to make an INT. (0:39)
2) The smoke screen is thrown to the WR inside of him.  He sheds the blocker and comes up to make the tackle, unfortunately he misses the tackle. (1:13)
3) He waits for the WR to make is move and makes a big hit on him over the middle. (1:53)
4) He is the deep shell in the zone coverage; he is on the seam route but sees the throw and breaks on the ball.  His quick hips allow him to make up ground and he deflects the pass before it can get to the intended WR. (2:00)
5) There is a miscommunication on the play he thinks he has the flat 1/3 but he is supposed to be deeper.  He realizes the hole in the coverage and makes an acrobatic pass breakup.  After the play he talks to his teammate and realizes it is his mistake.  He takes ownership with the coaches for the error. (3:51)
6) He works against the WR on the fade route to the corner.  He keeps within arms reach of the WR and tips the ball away. (5:45)
7) He is guarding the blocking WR on the screen play.  He sheds the block then strips the WR of the ball as he makes the tackle.  It shows his great awareness and instinct to go for the knockout blow. (6:21)

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James Wilder

James Wilder Jr. UDFA to Final 53?

James Wilder-RB (FSU)
Height: 6’3” Weight: 232 lbs
40 yard dash: 4.86 Vertical Leap: 32”

Initial Thoughts: He definitely has the talent to be on an NFL roster as the short yardage guy.  The problem is for him they have a vet in BJGE they can keep in that roll with added character and leadership, even if Hill would go down.  He has the look and the NFL bloodline with his dad being a former pro bowl RB with the Bucs.  I see him as an insurance policy in case they lose BGJE, Hill or both in training camp or the pre-season.  He will get his fair share of touches in the pre-season though. I assume the Bengals will have their mind made up on BGJE at that point and will be protecting Hill for the long haul by limiting his workload.  His combine measureables are not great, but are what were expected.  Chances to make the team barring no injuries in 2014 about 5%, chances for the practice squad are 100%; unless he gets arrested.  Even if they let BJGE go they will likely go with Burkhead and Peerman.  I think they see if he can keep his nose out of trouble while learning the offense in 2014.  He will be the short yardage backup to hill in 2015 and I give him a 75% of making the final 53 next year.

Strengths: He has the NFL back and looks the part. He has a strong build, and was used sparingly at FSU (only about 225 carries all time).  Possesses a great stiff arm and well balanced for a guy his size.  Stays behind his pads and absorbs contact well, does well at breaking tackles and getting YAC.  High upside possibility and low risk for the Bengals, could be a good battering ram in the future.  He does well at pushing the pile with his leg strength and drive.  With his body type and attributes he is a perfect between the trees type of runner, when he stays north/south he excels.  Averaged 7 YPC in 2013, but was stuck behind Freeman on the depth chart, who was drafted in the 4th round.

Weaknesses: Not very elusive, doesn’t really have the foot speed to string moves together.  This causes him to have to slow down to make his cuts, which allows him to get caught from behind at times.  Not a shake you guy has to use the stiff arm or absort the hit and keep his feet moving to break tackles.  Character concerns are obvious; he was arrested multiple times at FSU.  Lets his pad level get to high, running upright will cause him to get stood up in the NFL and increase his risk of injury when taking big shots to the midsection.  He has had durability issues and this is the main reason.  He didn’t get a pass thrown to him in the limited tape I had access too.  In his combine tape he chest catches almost all of the passes, when he has pads on this will certainly lead to drops.

Key plays vs Miami:
1) Sees opening in the B gap early on and disregards his lead blockers to the A and C gap shoots the gap.  The hole quickly closes in front of him since he has no blocker so eat up the LB approaching.  He lowers his pads and absorbs the contact, keeps his balance, and keep his feet churning for the TD. (0:18)
2) Good read of the play, correctly follows his blocker and has a huge opening.  Unfortunately he gets his foot tripped up by the LT and falls for a short gain.  (0:52)
3) Great sweep run, uses a stiff arm to stop the would be tackler.  He keeps his feet and dives for the pylon to get the TD. (1:15)
4) Winston fumbles the snap and he alertly notices this and runs back over to place a block for Winston and buy him some time.  (2:08)

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NFL Draft Scouting Report; Russell Bodine Project or Potential Starter

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Russell Bodine
HT: 6’3″ WT 310 Lbs
Pos: C/OG
School: North Carolina
Arm Length: 32 1/2″
Hands: 10″
40 yd dash 5.18 sec
Bench Reps: 42
Vert: 29.0″
Broad Jump: 109.0 INCH
3 Cone: 8.26 SEC
20 yd shuttle: 4.66 sec

Initial Thoughts:
I think that most Bengals fans, if not all of them, wanted this team to find a better option than Kyle Cook before the 2014 season. Kyle had his flash in the pan season, but those days have come and gone. Recently he has been more like one of those revolving doors in the Chiquita center, than he has been an NFL linemen. In the end he was not strong, or big enough to get any push on the mammoth NTs that he went up against in the AFC North.

We all knew the solution would have to come in the draft; it’s not in this team’s typical workings to make a splash in free agency. This year’s draft class was talked about as being thin at the Center position, and I was worried that would cause a real issue for the Bengals. The top Centers would most certainly be over drafted, the buzz about the top Centers was at a quiet roar by draft week. The Bengals did the right thing and waited for a guy that they liked to fall in their lap. They had a third round grade on Russell Bodine and Paul Alexander really, really wanted this guy. As he slid into the middle part of the forth they traded up to get their guy. They had an extra sixth round pick and with this roster that pick was unlikely to make the final 53 anyway. According to the Bengals draft board, it was a good value to move up, but questions remain for Paul Alexander. Can he harness this incredibly strong, but raw man-beast and turn him into a road grater?

Strengths:
He is incredibly weight room strong he had the max bench reps with 42 at the combine. He is a high character player with no red flags, went to a military academy. Bodine embraces the role of being one of the “Big Uglies” in the trenches. He is not afraid to mix it up and protect his teammates, has a nasty streak and plays through the whistle. He has the ideal size for an NFL lineman, is a big barrel chested man with great speed for his size. Workout warrior, he had top marks at the combine for bench press and vertical leap. No real injuries in his history, he is durable and tough (I saw his leg/ankle get rolled up on in a game, he missed a play and went back in). He is great at getting to the second level but struggles to connect on those blocks. He has a strong plant to stop the initial push from DT, seals off well in the running game for backside runs. He is a versatile player that can play G or C if needed, although I think the Bengals see him as only a Center for this year. Has experience in running silent snap counts, which is a critical asset in todays NFL thanks to Peyton Manning. Is better in a man blocking scheme then he is in a zone blocking scheme, he is a smart player so I think he just needs to be coached up here.

Weaknesses:
He lacks ideal agility, struggled with his cone drill times at the combine (slowest 3 cone time). He doesn’t use his size to his advantage as much as he could, settles with the cut block too often. Can let his pad level get to high and get push off the point of attack. Overextends himself and loses leverage on the play. Sticks to his block a little to long sometimes leaving his guards with no secondary help. When he has to move a lot getting to the second level for screen plays and pulling for sweep plays, his poor mechanics cause missed blocks. Lacks ideal recognition of who he should be blocking on the second level when reading the defense.

Key plays vs. Boston College:
1) He completely whiffs on his block and gives up a sack 3:45 (2nd play Breakdown below)
2) Get’s out well on the screen play, but misses the block downfield that would have sprung the TD (5:00) (1st play breakdown below)
3) He makes a good block to lead the run play and pushes the DT off the POA. He finishes the block by driving him into the ground. (5:45) (3rd play breakdown below)
4) He does a good job of selling the run then getting out on the screen, but misses his block on the second level. This is unfortunately something that recurs in his tape and something the Bengals need him to do well. (7:14) (4th play Beakdown below)
5) He pulls with the guard but misses his block and runs over his own guy (7:43)
6) He makes a good weak side seal on the play and allows the QB to escape the pocket for positive yardage. (7:53)
7) He holds his block and seals the DT to the strong side alley, allowing the run play to develop behind him for the TD. (8:20)

2) Screen play breakdown that uses the Silent snap count

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1) Missed block that causes a sack breakdown

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3) Bodine wins the POA on the run play

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4) Bodine smoke screen play breakdown

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Key plays vs. Virginia Tech:

1) He pulls left to lead the run sweep and connects on the block knocking the defender down. (1:07) (gif below)
2) He gets beat to the outside of his block, it forces the QB to scramble and get tackled for a loss. Holding was called on him during the play too (2:08)
3) Successfully chips the DT and gets out in front of the screen play. Finds the closing LB in traffic and cuts off his angle to the RB allowing him to get by and break off a big play. (2:22)
4) Wins the point of attack (POA) on the short yardage QB sneak,(something the Bengals need) allows the QB to get the first down. (3:17)
5) Seals the A gap to the left and wins the POA pushing the DT back. The run play is able to follow through the alley created behind him. (3:35)
6) Shows off his upper body strength, shoving the defender engaged with the RG to the ground. (3:55) (1st Play breakdown below)
7) He doesn’t hold his block long enough on the WR double reverse play. The defender sheds him and forces the WR to cut back inside and is tackled for a loss. (4:15)
8) They are in a diamond offensive set (pretty much declaring run) that is a variation of the pistol or T formation. He wins the POA on the DT and allows the RG to finish the block. Aggressively works to get to the second level and blocks the LB, creating an alley for the play. (4:28)
9) He misses his block and gives up the QB sack. The very next play he gets knocked down and his defender tackles the RB in the backfield. (5:15)
10) He makes a good cut block of the DT and opens a hole for the RB. (8:08)
11) He gets blown off the POA and pushed into the QBs lap, giving up a QB sack. (8:15) (He does get his ankle rolled up on the play. He toughs it out and plays the rest of the game.)
12) He does a good job getting to the second level and cutting the safety in the run play. (11:30)

Game Summary: This was the worst game of his that I watched. He really struggled with the exotic defenses that Boston College threw at them. Part of this could have been that his teammates were making the mistakes though. They did start two freshman next to him. If it was him that made the errors he will really have to put his nose in the book and get in the film room. The Steelers and Ravens are known for their exotic looks, cutting edge defensive fronts, and blitz packages. They didn’t line up over him much in this game and made him move to get to the POA. When he got there he did fine but he definitely struggled initially.

1) Bodine makes a quality pull block on the run sweep

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6) He assists with the block on the RG and knocks the DT down using his brute strength. This is definitely a play that Paul Alexander saw and it has him licking his chops!

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Key Plays vs. Cincinnati:

1) He does a good job on a left side pull block of locating the defender and cutting him successfully. I would still prefer to see him stay up in these situations and bull guys over. In this case his cut was effective so you cannot really fault him. (1:12) (1st Play Breakdown below)
2) He loses the POA badly and is pushed back collapsing the pocket around the QB. The pressure in the face of the QB forces an earlier throw and missed opportunity on the big play downfield. (1:22)
3) He does a good job of making the initial contact and then passing off the block to the RG. This allows him to help the LG that was starting to lose his seal. (1:45)
3) He is moved to LG and has a good back side chop block of the DE in pursuit. (2:37)
4) He is pulling to the right from the LG position. He does a good job of getting in front of the play, but does a poor job of recognizing the person he should block. He blocks a whole lot of air and the play goes for no gain. (3:42)
5) He allows himself to get way to upright on the play, then gets blown off the POA right from the start. Luckily the QB throws the ball quickly and avoids the sack. Talk about being put on a pair of skates…that is this play in a nutshell. (3:53)
6) He has a good stretch of plays on a series that leads to a TD. It is capped off with a good cut block and a good chip of the safety on the scoring play. (5:53)
7) He moves back inside to play Center (6:05)
8) He does a good job of getting to the second level and keeping the LB away from the ball carrier. (9:41)
9) He properly gets out on the screen play and forms a wall with the guards. The RB cuts back inside instead of following the block for a big gain. No fault of Bodine’s that the RB made the improper read. (11:37)
10) In another instance of his poor downfield recognition he gets ahead of the screen play, then proceeds to block no one. (12:24) (2nd Play breakdown below)
11) He makes a good cut blow on the DT allowing the QB time to turn the corner on the designed QB run. (13:17)
12) He gets too aggressive and overextends on his block, causing him to lose the POA and get beat. (13:57)
Game Summary: This game did show you a few of the big reasons that the Bengals had Bodine high on their board. He played both LG and C in this game, and he showed his raw strength multiple times. He controlled the point of attack most of the game and especially in the second half. His main areas of concern were his missed blocks and inability to decipher which guy to block on some of his pulls and screen get outs. There were only a few times the whole game were he lost the POA badly and Cincy had a pretty good run defense this year. The versatility that he showed in this game allows the Bengals flexibility down the road. If a elite center falls in their lap in the draft or FA he can slide over to guard.

Here are two quick videos showing Bodine with the opposite extremes on the POA. One with him winning convincingly; the other he is put on skates:
Reminder:
He is the Center on the left play, and the LG on the right one.

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1) Bodine successfully pulls left and seal off the defender:

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12) Breakdown of Bodine pulling and missing his blocking assignment:

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Final Analysis:

This is the pick that I think will surprisingly define this draft class. If Paul Alexander can make the rough edges on Bodine’s game shiny this draft could be a huge haul. It will provide a buffer in case Clarke doesn’t pan out or Hill gets himself in trouble (although he has looked very grounded so far). Bodine definitely has the build and strength to be a top Center in the league. He is a perfect fit for what the Bengals want to do this year; punch you in the mouth, then do it again.

He will benefit from the 3-4 schemes that all the other teams in the AFC North run. The NT will almost always be lined right over him, unless they are in an exotic front. Then it will simply be the question can you transition your incredible lifting strength onto the field. I think we have to trust Paul Alexander’s eye for talent, he got his guy now he needs to mold him into his next Anthony Collins. The best thing about Bodine is the Bengals drafted a strong, prototypical build, with big upside at Center. It’s not likely that a rookie Center will receive promising marks if you put a lot of weight into Pro Football Focus plus/minus system, as Paul Dehner pointed out earlier this week. The one thing I can say is most of the Centers that are drafted high enough to start are on bad offensive lines. This surely contributes a bit to their low numbers. With the guys around him I think Bodine will grow quickly. He is a very smart player Paul Alexander and his fellow linemen are singing his praise already.

“He’s had a good spring. He’s really mature for a young guy. Smart. He knows football. He’s really been very impressive. The center is the brains of the operation. And he can do that.” –Paul Alexander

“(Bodine) has the characteristics we are looking for in a center. It’s not that Trevor (Robinson) hasn’t, we just put him in there for right now. He’s got to get the ball to the quarterback right. He needs to do a better job of snapping the ball. He can’t play center if you don’t snap the ball correctly. He’s working at it and he’s done a good job. But he’s got to become a little more consistent on an everyday basis.” -Hue

Jackson

“He’s picking stuff up quickly. For somebody who has only been live in the offense for two weeks, he’s definitely improving every day. He knows the situation. He’s not freaking out about it. He’s taking it in stride and he’s taking it to heart.”- Kevin Zeitler

After just a few days with him I would say those are some pretty high praises from the three most important people he needs to impress. The guy to his right in the trenches, his OL coach, and his OC.

I think the ideal situation is he gets the lions share of the snaps in the preseason, as guys get healthy. He then can sit behind Pollock in the beginning of the season and when he is ready send in the steamroller. At that point Pollock and Boling can fight over the LG spot. Is he going to make some plays this year that make you want to pull your hair out? I’d bet my 401K on it. Is he going to plant some guys on their asses paving the way for Gio or Hill to break off for a huge gain, I’ll bet my 401K on that too. The Bengals obviously have a plan and Bodine fits that plan, the Bengals don’t trade up…ever; yet they traded up to get a guy that throws up 225lbs like the rest of us throw back 12oz curls tailgating at PBS. That in itself should tell you something this guy has some major potential.

Leave your comments and feedback on the article below or tweet me, I welcome discussion on the article or other Bengals draftees
These screenshots came from videos from draftbreakdown.com
Special Thanks to Andrew Q for adding extra videos for this article.
Shot out to my guy Animal_like_me for helping me to stave off the grammar police.
Combine stats and measurements courtesy of NFL.com

NFL Draft Scouting Report: Dennard the Perfect home in Stripes

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Darqueze Dennard
5’11″  199 lbs
40 yard dash: 4.51
Bench press: 15 reps
Initial Thoughts:
As the draft began on that fateful Thursday night the Bengals brass were hoping that maybe, just maybe, one of the top CBs would fall to them.  For that to happen they were going to need some luck and a lot of it, or so it would seem.  As most Bengals fans I was thinking we would need a run on quarterbacks to have a shot at the top 3 corners.  The top ten rounded out and only Bortles was off the board, I was extremely nervous. I had pretty much written off the notion that Dennard or Fuller would make it 14 more picks.  I began to hear the pundits already…..here go the Bengals again back to their old way with a reach pick.  I mean Marvin all but said they were taking a corner a few days before the draft.  I had flashbacks of Akili, Klingler, and Levi Jones thinking no, no, no they are going to reach again.  I mean there were at least 4 teams with big needs at corner before us and one of those teams was the Steelers, they could use a hard hitting corner or the best pure man press corner.  The Bengals watched their board as names they had ranked in the teens kept being taken.  Then the Bears pick Fuller at 14 and the #7 prospect on their board was gone, yet one name remained Dennard.  The Steelers are on the clock and have a need at corner with an aging secondary they surely will take Dennard.  I mean how many years have they taken guys after the Bengals that turn out to be great, and we are left with guys like Keith Rivers?  This was their chance to stick it too the Bengals, to take the last top tier corner and leave us hanging out to dry…..right?  The pick comes in and what?  It’s Ryan Shaizer, I felt like Lloyd Christmas “so you’re telling me there’s a chance.” The picks keep coming in and before pick 20 the Bengals war room had to be clutching the Dennard magnet trying to work some kind of voodoo on it.  This doesn’t happen for our Bengals, we always get hosed.  I was thinking, there is no way a gift falls in our lap two years in a row.  Then Cleveland trades back into the first so Philly isn’t there to take a CB and I am thinking, holy smokes only Kansas City in the way now…Mikey Boy you better start writing Dennard on that card now for some good luck.  Then it happened and I bet you there were so many high fives in that war room that even Tom Brady would’t get left hanging.  The Bengals got the guy #8 on their board at pick 24 increadible, he lasted 14 agonizing picks, over two hours for the coaches and the fans to sweat it out.  In the end they got one of the top pure football players in this draft at pick 24, a guy that comes in polished and ready to contribute day 1 if he needs to; below I will show you why.

 

Strengths:

He excels in man press coverage (Bengals primary defense) and is good in man off coverage too. He will come up and help support the run, is a physical corner that will hit you if given the opportunity.  He stays close to the receiver at the line of scrimmage and does a great job of jamming the receiver to slow them off the line.  Has a fluid and controlled backpeddle and comes in pretty polished technically.  He has great instincts and recognition skills of routes.  He plays to the whistle and fights to dislodge the ball all the way to the ground, is great at stripping the ball away from the receiver pre and post catch.  He played big when the lights were on, had 2 interceptions in the outback bowl vs Georgia and Aaron Murray.  Was solid in the Rose bowl vs Stanford and got them to that game by shutting down his side of the field vs an undefeated Ohio State team (Too soon?).  He has good hands and body control in the air, he does lose focus and drop the easy interception every once in a while.  Exceptional after the catch at directing traffic during the run back on interceptions, is patient and crosses the field to gain more yards. He is very Ed Reed esc in his returns; who was also selected with the 24th pick in 2002 I might add.  High character player and is a natural leader teammates gravitate to him and look to feed off of his energy.  Good study of the game he improved every year at Michigan State so one can only think that trend will continue in the NFL.  Plays with swagger the Michigan State secondary was know as the “no fly zone” and they enforced it, and when they laid the wood on you they let you know about it!

Weaknesses:

He didn’t play much zone coverage but from the time he did he is better suited in man coverage. He lacks elite speed for the position, so he has to use technique and physicality to make up for it.  He will need to work on his downfield grabbing and hand location to avoid costly pass interference calls at the next level.  He should model his game after a guy like Richard Sherman who has become one of the best at walking the fine line of being physical vs pass interference. His durability is a concern he missed games throughout his college career (5 in 2010, 3 in 2011) and had to have double hernia surgery after the 2013 season. He is a little stiff with his change of direction.

 

Key Plays vs Nebraska:

1) Makes a one handed interception down the field and quickly turns it into a good return

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2) Reads the QB and breaks on pass, makes the interception, then picks his way through traffic for 96 yard TD
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Key Plays vs Notre Dame:
1)  Has his back to the play and breaks up the pass, but he never turns back to see the ball and that is a recipe for pass interference in the NFL (1:08)
2) Gets called for defensive holding and is too grabby on the play (2:30)
3) Does a good job of recognizing the run play and fights through the wash to make the tackle (5:11)
4) Battles with the receiver throughout the route rips the ball out as the receiver is headed to the ground fights all the way to the whistle (7:50)
5) Makes a good and bad play in the same motion he pulls the receiver down getting a PI call but then makes a tough catch and has a great run back on the play (8:50) (gif below)

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Key Plays vs Ohio State:
1) Great coverage that results in a coverage sack for the team (0:43)
2) Correctly picks up the TE and covers him down the seam (1:16) (something this team needs)
3) Doesn’t give up on the play just because the run is away from him, he rushes back across the field to make the tackle (1:55)
4) Jams the receiver at the line of scrimmage then follows the deep receiver to force the short throw.  Comes up and makes the tackle and strips the ball
5) on the long pass downfield he fights for correct position and uses proper technique to knock the ball away with his inside hand. (2:38) (Play breakdown below)
6) Breaks back on the pass and disrupts the play
7) Good downfield coverage to close out the game (5:15)

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Key Plays vs Iowa:
1) Opens his hips and keeps his eyes in the backfield and breaks on the throw for the INT (0:28)
2) Reads the run and sheds the blocker to make the tackle (1:14)
3) Times the blitz well to comes off the edge, once he sees he is not going to get the sack he gets his hands up to try to deflect the pass. (2:15)
4) Gets beat in coverage and hustles to get back into the play and gets his hand and the pass but the receiver makes a difficult catch. (2:40)
5) Makes a huge hit on the receiver after the catch, keeps his eyes in the backfield that allowed him to break on the play before the first down. (3:40) (gif below)
6) Makes an interception in tight coverage to seal the win (4:30) (notice the trend…he is a finisher)

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Key plays vs Western Michigan:
1) He jams the bigger faster receiver and jousts with him down the sideline.  This shows he can learn to walk the line of battling for position vs getting a pass interference penalty (1:38) (gif below)
2) Gets called for pass interference for holding the jersey (2:15)
3) Good pass break up on an out  route, he does not let the receiver box him out of the play (2:55)
4) Runs with the receiver in man off coverage (no jam) and locates the ball to break up the pass (5:02)
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Final Thoughts:

This was the ultimate no brainer pick for the Bengals this year, they would have been crazy to take anyone else at pick 24 given the circumstances.  Yes, Bridgewater was available and you could argue to take him if you are not a fan of Dalton, but not when a player you have #8 on your board at a position at need is available.  It’s a safe pick for the Bengals because he played a lot of college football so they pretty much know what they are getting.  Even if Dennard struggles at the pro level no one can really look back and judge this pick because I think about 30 GMs in the league in the same situation would have done the same thing.

Dennard is a hell of a football player, he is physical and it is almost like he was groomed to play AFC North football. He is a gritty player that works hard to earn every thing he gets.  He didn’t have a college scholarship offer to a D1 school until Michigan State came to scout the receiver he was playing against during his High school game in Georgia.  What did he do, well he shut him down and got that scholarship offer for himself.  At Michigan State they play hard nosed defense and rely on their pass rush to disrupt quarterbacks.  This allows the DBs to make plays on the ball when the quarterback makes a mistake.  He is a fierce competitor that has played in rain, sleet, and snow just like he will be asked to do in the AFC North.  I really think this pick is going to benefit the Bengals in multiple ways.  I think that Dennard actually plays with the swagger that Dre talks about, and together they will push each other and grow into quite the duo.  To me Dre seems a bit like Robin and now he just got his Batman together they will fight Ray Rice crime with in the AFC North.

“This is a great value pick for the Bengals … I think the Bengals get one of the best 10, 15 football players in this entire draft … I think he’s velcro in terms of man-to-man coverage … This is a really well-rounded football player that the Bengals get”  -Todd Mcshay

Dennard could have been argued as the best corner in the draft and before the whole draft process no one had him outside of the top ten in their mocks.  He is not a guy that is a combine machine, and he had the most game tape so I feel like teams nit picked him a bit causing his stock to fall.  His footwork is great and he knows how to play to his skills; he jams receivers to slow them to make up for his lack of straight line speed.  He is a team player and will sacrifice his body to make the right play for the team.  An example is throwing his body at a larger blocker to seal the edge and force the run back inside, or hitting larger backs head on to slow their momentum.  He is a tenacious competitor and fights all the way to the whistle.  When I watch him he plays a lot like Ed Reed, he is always going for the strip of the ball and as soon as he makes an interception he has one of the quickest switches to returning the ball I have seen.  He comes in ready to go day 1 and fills a team need at a great value from the spot he was picked.  He is a great character guy for the locker room, and a natural leader on and off the field.  He is a hard worker and a smart football player he is only going to get better.  Don’t be surprised if Dennard joins Geno, and Vontez, as backbone of this Bengals Defense in 2 years.  If that is not a Christmas gift wrapped up with a bow on it in May, call me crazy.  All I can say is I am happy the other 23 teams passed on Dennard and Bengals Nation should welcome him with open arms, simply put he is a STUD!

 

Leave your comments and feedback below or tweet me, I welcome discussion on the article.
These screenshots came from videos from http://www.draftbreakdown.com
Combine stats courtesy of http://www.NFL.com
for questions about the article and other Bengals draftees