The Cincinnati Bengals cornerbacks were instrumental in the team’s Super Bowl run in 2021. The team opted to again spend in free agency on the position in 2021, bringing in big-name targets in Chidobe Awuzie and Mike Hilton. At the same time, they said goodbye to homegrown talent William Jackson III rather than offer a second contract.
Free agency has been key to the position for the Bengals. Of the seven cornerbacks on the roster to begin the 2021 season only one (Darius Phillips) was drafted by the team. Heading into 2022 the roster will include second-round pick Cam Taylor-Britt, the highest cornerback selected by the team under Zac Taylor. He should provide a much-needed infusion of youth into the unit.
Previewing the Cincinnati Bengals Cornerbacks Heading into Training Camp
In his first year as a Bengal, Awuzie ended up with a fantastic 83.3 overall PFF grade. His coverage grade was an even better 84.2. Drawing the opponent’s top wideout, he was able to hold his own against some of the best in the game. He most notably helped hold Tyreek Hill to 40 yards to help Cincinnati clinch the division. Many will point to his struggles in the playoffs, particularly against AJ Brown, but that shouldn’t take away from how reliable he was for the team in 2021
Awuzie should once again headline the Cincinnati Bengals cornerbacks heading into 2022. He is signed for two more seasons on his three-year, $21.75 million deal. Already a bargain when signed, the deal looks even better after seeing Awuzie’s 2021 season.
Hilton lived up to his four-year, $24 million deal every bit as much as Awuzie. He is PFF’s second-ranked slot cornerback heading into 2022. He spent less time as a pass rusher than many anticipated based on his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he excelled in his man-coverage role. His first career pick-six came in week 12 against the Steelers, giving the Bengals a dominant 31-3 lead at the half.
Hilton will again man the slot cornerback position this season. He has also become a vocal leader of the defense, so expect him to play a role in working with the rookies and new teammates in camp and beyond.
Eli Apple’s season ended in one of the worst ways imaginable. Giving up the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl to Cooper Kupp will long be one of the memories fans associate with him. However, despite struggling at times, overall he played fairly well. Especially for a player making $1.2 million. The Bengals were pleased enough with his play to bring him back on another one-year deal, this time for $3.75 million.
Apple will aim to be the number two cornerback opposite Awuzie in the 2022 season. He will definitely see competition from rookie Cam Taylor-Britt for the spot. At worst he will find himself the primary backup and fourth cornerback in dime packages.
The Bengals drafted Cam Taylor-Britt at pick 60 in the second round of the 2022 Draft. The team had picked a few cornerbacks since taking William Jackson III 24th overall in 2016, but none on day one or two of the Draft. After going with safety Dax Hill in round one, the team was thrilled to see Taylor-Britt still available and moved up to secure him. Taylor-Britt has excellent athletic tools, scoring an 8.28 RAS. He has good ball skills and the coaches will love his eagerness in the run game. However, he will need to polish a few things, including a tendency to gamble and poor tackling form. A great breakdown of him can be found in this excellent write-up for SI.
He should get every opportunity in camp to prove he should be the starter over Apple. If he does not win the job immediately, he should still see the field frequently.
Tre Flowers is back on a one-year deal. He should be in the mix for his excellent coverage skills against tight ends. The team typically carries six to seven cornerbacks going into the season, so that leaves potentially two spots up for grabs. Other camp attendees include Jalen Davis, John Brannon, and undrafted free agents Abu Daramy-Swaray, Alan George, Delonte Hood, and Bookie Radley-Hiles. One or more may also end up on the practice squad.
Sounds more and more like the #Bengals will have Chidobe Awuzie, Eli Apple, AND Trae Waynes available on Sunday.
— Willie Lutz (@willie_lutz) December 9, 2021