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Bengals take Dennard with first round selection
CINCINNATI (AP) -- The Bengals chose cornerback Darqueze Dennard from Michigan State with the 24th overall pick in the NFL draft on Thursday night, a move that brings some youth to one of the oldest positions on the team.
Dennard won the Jim Thorpe Award given to the nation's top defensive back. He'll fit into a group that's starting to show some age.
Cincinnati's defense has been the steadying force in its run to three straight playoff berths, a franchise first. The defense finished third overall in the league last season.
But it's a unit in transition. Coordinator Mike Zimmer left to become head coach in Minnesota. Defensive end Michael Johnson left as a free agent, signing with Tampa Bay. And defensive tackle Geno Atkins is recovering from a torn knee ligament.
They also needed help at cornerback.
Top cornerback Leon Hall is recovering from his second torn Achilles hamstring in three years. Terence Newman and Adam "Pacman" Jones turn 36 and 31 this year, respectively. Dre Kirkpatrick has struggled with injuries and inconsistency since the Bengals took him in the first round in 2012. Kirkpatrick appeared in 14 games last season, starting three.
Two of the top cornerbacks were gone by the time the Bengals picked. Justin Gilbert went to AFC North rival Cleveland, and Kyle Fuller went to Chicago.
Coach Marvin Lewis said leading up to the draft that quarterbacks and cornerbacks are the two toughest positions in the NFL, and teams that are deficient at those spots will struggle.
During Lewis' tenure, the Bengals have had 13 first-round picks. Seven went to offense, six to defense. They've taken four cornerbacks (Jonathan Joseph, Hall, Kirkpatrick and Dennard), two tight ends (Jermaine Gresham, Tyler Eifert), two linebackers (David Pollack, Keith Rivers), two offensive linemen (Andre Smith, Kevin Zeitler), receiver A.J. Green, running back Chris Perry and quarterback Carson Palmer.