CINCINNATI — Dax Hill had an idea the Cincinnati Bengals were interested in drafting cornerback DJ Turner when some of the coaches started asking about his former teammate from the University of Michigan.
As the Bengals’ second-round draft position approached and Turner remained on the board, Hill had a feeling they would be reunited in Cincinnati. He was “glad it all worked out.”
Turner, the fastest player in the 2023 draft class, will get integrated into the team starting this week with rookie minicamp set for Friday. Hill looks forward to helping him in that transition, but said he also will benefit from Turner’s presence in the secondary, as someone he enjoyed playing alongside in college.
“We were on the phone about it,” Hill said. “It was kind of funny, it was like old times. We always look at each other and already know how we are going to play just based on how we are aligned, so we already have that chemistry built so I’m just looking forward to keep building on that.”
Turner adds depth to a cornerback position where Chidobe Awuzie is coming back from ACL surgery and Eli Apple remains unsigned in free agency. Cam Taylor-Britt, the team’s second-round draft pick last year, replaced Awuzie after his Oct. 31 injury, and the Bengals also added Sidney Jones IV in free agency, but Turner could step in as an outside or nickel corner if needed.
Hill has no doubt Turner will fit in well, especially after playing so many different defensive schemes and packages at Michigan.
“Just the type of football player he is,” Hill said. “It doesn’t matter what type of atmosphere, what defense, at Michigan we played a lot of different types of defenses and he adjusts well.”
“He’s smart, fast, willing to do anything for the team, humble player, so definitely going to be a good fit for the secondary,” Hill added.
Even the early-round draft picks for the Bengals won’t be expected to step in as Day 1 starters, just like was the case for Hill last year. Asked if that can take pressure off a player coming in as a rookie, Hill said he wouldn’t want to speak for the others, but he just came in ready to compete.
“That’s probably something they would love to do, but when they come in, I’m just telling them to just be themselves, don’t really put too much pressure on yourself just because you are a high draft pick or because you have all these expectations on you,” Hill said. “It’s just football at the end of the day. I’m just going to encourage them the best I can, and then we’ll all just go ball together.”
Hill joked that hopefully Turner won’t have to learn as many different positions as he did last year. Hill started out as Jessie Bates’ replacement at free safety while Bates sat out of voluntary offseason workouts and the early part of training camp.
Then, Hill was learning different safety packages as a backup and he ended up having to step in at cornerback when Apple was banged up and inactive the same game Awuzie got hurt.
“Hopefully he don’t have to do all that,” Hill said. “Hopefully he can just stick to his corner position and excel in that position first.”
Hill said he also looks forward to seeing what third-round draft pick Jordan Battle brings to the group. The Bengals drafted Battle to help fill the void created with the departures of Bates and Vonn Bell.
Battle and Hill originally were set to be teammates in college, but Hill flipped his commitment from Alabama to Michigan. Hill said he’s heard good things about Battle, and with him and Turner joining the group, Cincinnati probably has “one of the fastest secondaries in the NFL,” Hill said.
That also will make the defense even more fun to watch.
“When you include speed with it, it makes it all more fun, more excitement, more guys going to the ball,” Hill said. “You have no excuse not to run to the ball now, and it just makes it all better for the secondary.”
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