COMMENTARY| The signing of veteran safety Chris Crocker does not exactly bode well for the Cincinnati Bengals' secondary. Not that Crocker himself is the issue because he is most prepared of anyone not on a NFL roster to step right into the defense of coordinator Mike Zimmer and contribute in slot coverage if nothing else. It's just that the signing of the 33-year-old Crocker suggests that the Bengals cornerback corps could be on the verge of implosion.
Leon Hall Injury
The worst part about the hamstring injury that Bengals' CB Leon Hall suffered last week against the Green Bay Packers was that it resulted from pure hustle on the biggest play of the game -- a 58-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown by Hall's fellow corner, Terence Newman. Hall chip blocked downfield to help ensure that Newman advanced uncontested to the end zone for the game winner.
Hall played an outstanding game against the Packers, virtually shutting down one of quarterback Aaron Rodgers' most explosive weapons in receiver Randall Cobb. Ever since Hall was drafted as a first-round pick in 2007, he has been one of the steadiest performers on the Bengals' defense in the 84 games he has started in his seven-year career.
After a thrilling win against the Packers and a great personal performance, Bengals' CB Adam Jones undoubtedly felt the urge to celebrate. Unfortunately for Jones, that urge landed the 29-year-old corner in legal trouble for the umpteenth time after he was cited for disorderly conduct during a traffic stop that led to the arrest of the driver of the car for driving under the influence. Although Jones was not arrested, the incident adds to the list of Jones' indiscretions while he awaits trial for an arrest in June when he was charged with striking a woman at a nightclub.
Jones is a vital contributor to the Bengals' defense and not readily replaceable. As a part-time punt returner, Jones has a gift for reeling off big returns. Whether or not the Bengals or the NFL decide to force Jones to sit remains to be seen, but if Jones can play Sunday against the Browns. his presence on the field will go a long way to offset any limitations that Hall may face.
For the longer term, the status of Jones might be an ongoing issue that will make it harder for the Bengals' to resolve their secondary situation with certainty.
Other Options at CB
2012 first-round draft pick Dre Kirkpatrick remains a question mark due to a hamstring injury and overall suspect play when he is playing defense. Like Kirkpatrick, backup CB Brandon Ghee missed last week's game, and Ghee is even more problematic to return due to an ongoing recovery from a concussion.
The Crocker signing could be one of those street free agent signings that turns out to be a crucial one down the stretch if Jones is at risk long term and neither Kirkpatrick or Ghee pan out in 2013. The Bengals had also signed Philadelphia Eagles castoff Curtis Marsh and practice squad corner Chris Lewis-Harris, but neither is as likely to fill slot coverage in the nickel or dime in a pinch the way the veteran Crocker can.
Robb Hoff has worked as a freelance researcher for ESPN's production and news departments for more than five years. He posts his NFL draft predictions each year at footballnostradamus.com
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