Marvin Lewis on Darqueze Dennard: 'Best rookie corner I've seen' | HS Sports
By Josh Katzowitz, CBSSports.com
Marvin Lewis was Bengals coach when Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph were rookies. Lewis was the Ravens defensive coordinator when Duane Starks accumulated 16 interceptions in his first three seasons and when Chris McAlister, a three-time Pro Bowler, was playing his freshman year in the NFL.
Plus, Lewis has seen quite a few rookie cornerbacks since he began in the league as the Steelers linebackers coach in 1992.
None of them, however, compare to No. 24 overall pick Darqueze Dennard, because as Lewis told Bengals radio man Dan Hoard, Dennard is "the best rookie corner I've seen."
That's high praise from a coach who doesn't always love to give it.
But Dennard was seen as strong in press coverage while at Michigan State, and he was touted for his physicality in the leadup to the NFL draft. He won the Thorpe Award during his senior year while allowing just three receptions of 15 yards or more all season.
He seems to have transitioned to the pro game rather smoothly.
"I was told that one of his inadequacies was possibly playing the ball down the field," Lewis said, via ESPN.com. "And sometimes I think college corners get knocked for that, particularly if they were a physical player in college. But one of the things that's impressed me so much is his ability to track and play the football on vertical throws.
"If you want to be a great corner at this level, you have to have those capabilities, and he's shown those thus far.”
This, though, doesn't mean Dennard will crack the starting lineup right away. Dennard, in a sense, is lucky because he has so many veteran cornerbacks he can lean on and learn from in his rookie season. Hall, for example, and Terence Newman, both of whom likely will start. Or Adam Jones. Or he can learn from 2012 first-round pick Dre Kirkpatrick -- who's been bothered by injuries and who's only started three games in two seasons.
Either way, his teammates have been impressed.
"If he stays on this path," Newman said, "the sky's the limit for him."