News coming Friday that Adam Jones has been suspended for the Cincinnati Bengals’ season-opening game against Baltimore means it is time for the team’s young cornerbacks to step up.
No, for real this time.
OK, OK, this is a story that has been told before.
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Despite using first-round draft picks on cornerbacks Dre Kirkpatrick, Darqueze Dennard and William Jackson III in the past five years, they have questions at that ever-important position.
(A bit of good news for the Bengals: Jones will have a game against the practically quarterback-less Texans in Week 2 to get warmed up for a trip to Green Bay against Aaron Rodgers.)
Of course Jackson can’t be blamed for missing last season with an injury, but his quick development is more imperative now with Jones out for a division game.
Kirkpatrick played well enough last season to earn a new contract (and reported interest from the Steelers on the free-agent market), but tackling problems and penalties have prevented him from living up to the expectations he brought with him from Alabama.
Dennard, a star at Michigan State, has only started four games in his first three seasons as a pro.
Three of them were last season, when he had 47 tackles and was credited with one pass defensed. His only career interception came in 2015.
The former Big Ten star was slowed by an ankle injury as a rookie and saw his second NFL season cut short by shoulder surgery.
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There’s at least one more intriguing option on the roster as well: KeiVarae Russell. He played in five games as a rookie last season after beginning his NFL career in Kansas City.
Russell went to Notre Dame amid high expectations but lost a season in South Bend to an academic suspension. His junior year ended prematurely because of a fractured tibia, but he was still a third-round pick of the Chiefs.