With Trae Waynes expected to miss most of the 2020 season, Darius Phillips has an opportunity to step up and show he's a starting NFL cornerback.
The 25-year-old is entering his third year. This season could change the trajectory of his career. He played in eight games in 2019, mostly as a kick returner. He made the most of his only start last season, intercepting Baker Mayfield twice and helping the Bengals pick up their second win in Week 17.
Phillips allowed six receptions, two touchdowns and 144 yards in 2019. He was targeted 16 times in 109 snaps. The former fifth-round pick led the Bengals with four interceptions. He held opposing quarterbacks in check, giving up a 37.5 percent completion percentage.
Phillips looked great at times against the Browns, but also showed his inexperience when he gave up a 46-yard touchdown to Damion Ratley. It could take time for him to adjust to a more significant role, but he has the potential to be a solid cornerback in the NFL.
"Darius has been off to a good start here in training camp," head coach Zac Taylor said on Tuesday. "He obviously has made the big splash plays in the opportunities he got last year. Now it’s just consistency from down to down. That’s what we expect to see from him. He’s off to a solid start here. I’ve been pleased with some of the things we’ve seen him do. But again we got guys competing for those jobs as well. It’s early in training camp. We don’t have to make those declarations for who is going to have that starting job."
Phillips has a shot to play alongside William Jackson III and Mackensie Alexander this season.
"He’s obviously going to have a great opportunity to be that guy," Taylor said. "We feel like we have some good guys there who can come in there and compete."
Waynes signed a three-year, $42 million dollar deal with the Bengals this offseason. He suffered a torn pectoral muscle and will miss most of the 2020 season. Phillips will have a chance to step up, but losing Waynes is still a huge blow to the Cincinnati defense. The Bengals secondary was ranked near the bottom of the NFL last season. They attempted to fix the issue by signing guys like Waynes, Alexander, Vonn Bell, and LeShaun Sims.
Without Waynes, the Bengals are hoping someone can emerge in the secondary. Phillips appears to be the favorite for the starting job.
The coaches believe in the depth at cornerback. They're hoping someone like Phillips can separate themselves from the rest of the pack.
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