COMMENTARY | According to Pro Football Focus, the Cincinnati Bengals have the highest-rated cornerback trio in the NFL. The trio of Leon Hall, Terence Newman and Adam Jones all ranked within the top 25 out of all NFL cornerbacks in 2012.
There were a few other teams on the list with two cornerbacks ranked within that range. However, no other team had three -- the closest team was the Denver Broncos with three cornerbacks inside the top 28.
The cornerback position in Cincinnati has been severely underrated of late. All three of these players had stellar 2012 campaigns. Let's break down what each player was able to accomplish last season to determine why this trio is the best in football.
Hall comes in as the lowest-ranked Bengal on this list at 25 overall. This may come as a surprise to some, but what Hall was able to accomplish in 2012 was truly impressive.
Late in the season in 2011, Hall suffered an Achilles injury that ended his season. This is a devastating injury to come back from as a cornerback that relies so heavily on fluidity and changing direction.
Even so, Hall was able to get on the field for the beginning of the 2012 season.
He did have some rust to shake off early, but recovered nicely later in the season after fully regaining his form. Hall had three interceptions in his last four games played (including playoffs) with two returned for touchdowns. Hall also only gave up a total of three touchdowns to players that he was covering during the season.
Later in the season last year, Hall took on a new role in the slot on third downs. He was tasked to cover a tight end while in this position. Tight ends have been the Bengals Achilles' heel for quite some time, and Hall was a perfect answer for that.
His most memorable play from that position was in Week 16 of 2012 when he stepped in front of Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Heath Miller, intercepted a Ben Roethlisberger throw and returned it for a touchdown.
The 34-year old Newman revived his career last season under his former defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. Zimmer was a big reason why Newman was a Pro Bowler in his early years while they were both employed by the Dallas Cowboys.
When Newman was reunited with Zimmer last season, they worked on the corners' fundamentals and were able to get him back into the same form that he showed during his younger, more productive days in Dallas.
This enabled Newman to once again manage a stellar season which granted him the 19th overall ranking by Pro Football Focus.
This ranking was very deserving. Although Newman only intercepted two passes last season, he only gave up a total of three touchdowns throughout the year.
Newman's most memorable outing last season was against the Broncos. During that game, he intercepted Peyton Manning twice and defended a total of four passes. The Bengals lost that game, but Newman's play allowed it to be closely contested throughout the duration.
Quite possibly one of the most underrated cornerbacks in the NFL, Adam Jones had a spectacular 2012 season. Pro Football Focus gave him a positive 10.5 rating which was good for 11th overall in their 2012 rankings.
Jones did not record an interception last season, but he was one of the most consistent cornerbacks in the league. He only gave up a total of two touchdowns during the entire regular season last year.
Always in tight coverage, Jones only allowed a total of 183 yards after the catch to receivers on 44 receptions. That's only a 4.1 average of yards gained after a catch while Jones is in coverage.
To summarize, these three starting cornerbacks from the Bengals only gave up a total of eight touchdowns through the air last season. The defense as a whole gave up 16 touchdown passes (via Bengals.com). If the top three cornerbacks are only responsible for half of them, this indicates that the team is in very good shape at that position.
Heading into 2013, these three players will all be starting once again for the Bengals. Now, 2012 first-round selection Dre Kirkpatrick is healthy and looking for playing time. Also, Brandon Ghee -- a corner that showed great flashes in training camp last year -- will be healthy as well.
The return of these players could possibly start the debate that the Bengals may not only have the best cornerback trio in the NFL, but the deepest group at that position as well.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Focus' premium statistics.
Sean O'Donnell is a contributor for Yahoo! Sports and a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also the co-host of the Bengals Central Podcast on the Pro Football Central radio network. You can follow him on Twitter: @SeanODonnellNFL
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