By Connor Howe @http:///CHoweSports on August 11, 2014
Throughout the past few years, numerous Cincinnati Bengals defenders have broken out, from Michael Johnson in 2011, to Geno Atkins in 2012, to Vontaze Burfict in 2013. This year, one or two Bengals defenders will have the opportunity to break out and possibly even earn a Pro Bowl nod.
After deciding not to re-sign James Harrison in 2014, the Cincinnati Bengals sent a very clear message -- they believe in Emmanuel Lamur. In 2012, Lamur suffered a season-ending injury in the Bengals' preseason victory against the Colts. Lamur had the whole season to rehabilitate his injured shoulder, and the Bengals coaches have been raving about his ability to cover as a linebacker, even calling him the best cover linebacker on the team.
Although the Bengals expressed interest in retaining lineman Michael Johnson, he elected to sign a big money deal with the Buccaneers. The Bengals chose Margus Hunt with their second round draft pick in 2013 as a developmental player; now Hunt has the opportunity to shine in the rotation with no clear-cut starter on the left side opposite Carlos Dunlap. The Bengals have a few other impact defensive ends, but Hunt has the most potential.
Although Darqueze Dennard is not a current starter, he has the entire season to develop and learn from the Bengals' veteran corners. Dennard enters the season already the best press corner on the Bengals; he also has the best hands of the group. As Terrance Newman keeps getting older and older, Dennard will earn plenty of time on the field, possibly even snatching a starting position by the end of the season opposite Adam Jones or in the nickel.
After being selected in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, Kirkpatrick immediately struggled to stay healthy. Kirkpatrick suffered multiple injuries in his first three seasons, including a couple major knee and hamstring injuries. However, Bengals fans have quickly become excited and hopeful after seeing Kirkpatrick's pick-six against the Ravens in Week 17 and his interception in the Bengals' first preseason game against the Chiefs this year.
Starting all 16 games in 2013, Iloka recorded 66 tackles, only trailing Vontaze Burfict and Rey Maualuga's totals. Iloka's main problem has been forcing turnovers; he only recorded two forced fumbles and one interception last year. Bengals coaches have been helping Iloka increase his tenacity and focus on forcing turnovers. At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, Iloka has the physical attributes to become an elite safety if he can start taking the ball away.
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