Starters: Leon Hall & Terence Newman
Reserves: Dre Kirkpatrick, Adam Jones, Darqueze Dennard
Analysis: Back in 2010, the Bengals' cornerback position was highlighted by two stud corners in Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph. Unfortunately, Joseph jetted Cincinnati for Houston, Hall has since had two major Achilles injuries and the cornerbacks have been in disarray ever since.
Now, it looks like everything might be back on track in the Queen City. Leon Hall is returning from last season's injury, and Terence Newman will be the starter opposite him. Yes, that may be a bit of an older starting tandem, but the experience and careers of these two men are, at the very least, noteworthy. Sure, Hall won't be putting up 70-plus tackles or 6-plus interceptions, and Newman likely won't be matching any of his best years in Dallas, but both guys will hold plenty of value in this secondary.
What's interesting is that Darqueze Dennard and Dre Kirkpatrick, both significantly younger than Newman, Hall and Adam Jones, are going to be waiting in the wings for their shots on the field. We're still waiting for former Alabama standout Kirkpatrick to break out since being drafted in 2012, and Dennard's preseason practices have been spectacular (see this example from Jason Marcum on Cincy Jungle).
There's both youth and experience on the squad of corners, which will make for an interesting season in the secondary. By this time next year, with all due respect to Hall and Newman, Dennard and Kirkpatrick could be the starters, which sounds like bad news for this season, but that would be good news if they both succeed.
X-Factor: This one is easy—Darqueze Dennard. He wasn't expected to be available at pick 24, but he was and the Bengals are incredibly lucky to have added such a talent to the roster. However, he's going to play behind the team's veterans in the beginning, but he will likely be on the field enough to make some sort of impact.
If he's as good as billed, this cornerback corps is arguably one of the best.
What to Watch For: Dre Kirkpatrick is likely to see more time this year than in any of the past two. Toward the end of last season, he started to show glimpses of why he was a first-round pick in 2012, highlighted by a two-interception game (one of which was a pick-six) in Week 17 against the Baltimore Ravens.
Will this be the year the youngsters of the group take over?