CINCINNATI — Darqueze Dennard knew he wouldn’t get a chance to make an immediate impact when the Bengals drafted him in the first round in 2014. In three seasons, he’s started only four games.
William Jackson III was in the same wait-until-later mode when Cincinnati took him with the 24th overall pick last year. A torn chest muscle during training camp wiped out his rookie season.
The two cornerbacks finally have a chance to show they deserve an expanded role. Adam “Pacman” Jones is suspended for the season opener against Baltimore on Sept. 10 because of his off-season arrest, so there’s an opportunity for one of the cornerbacks-in-waiting to show they’re ready for more.
“My whole thing is just I want an opportunity,” Dennard said. “I think the coaches have faith in me. I have faith in myself. My teammates have faith in me.”
Dennard and Jackson have been hurt and stockpiled behind another pair of first-round picks — Jones (by Tennessee in 2005) and Dre Kirkpatrick (by the Bengals in 2012).
Dennard expected to have a bigger role by now, but he had hip and hamstring injuries in 2014 and a shoulder injury in 2015. An ankle injury wiped out his preseason last year and sidelined him for the first game.
Frustrated by spending so much time in medical rehabilitation, Dennard adjusted his diet and his training regimen in the offseason. He’s encouraged by how good he feels at the start of training camp.
“I changed my body to get stronger, quicker, faster,” Dennard said. “Right now, it’s about staying healthy. That’s been my problem the whole time. It’s not that I can’t play, I’m just not healthy.”
Jackson went on injured reserve after his chest injury, ending his season. He was healthy by the end of the season, but he was ineligible to play. He’d never suffered such a significant injury.
“Being on the sideline, I learned a lot,” Jackson said. “It was real beneficial. This year hopefully I can make some plays. I call myself a playmaker — that’s what I am.”
He made an impressive play during the first practice of training camp, stepping in front of a receiver to pick off Andy Dalton’s pass during an 11-on-11 drill. Jackson juggled the ball before pulling it in and heading downfield.
“Oh, it felt great to actually be competing and catch a pick rather than just working out and catching it,” he said.
The competition is on.
“It’s just another bump in the road,” Jackson said. “Hopefully I can win the job.”
Linebacker Vontaze Burfict sparked a scrum near the start of practice on Tuesday when he tackled running back Giovani Bernard by the legs during a non-tackling drill. Bernard was in his fourth practice since returning from reconstructive knee surgery.
Running backs coach Kyle Caskey yelled at Burfict, who started shoving as players converged. Afterward, tight end Tyler Eifert talked to the linebacker for several minutes, gesturing to make his point.
On a play near the end of practice, Jones hit receiver Tyler Boyd, and Eifert got locked up with safety Shawn Williams, prompting another team-wide scrum. Some of the estimated 1,250 fans booed as players were pried apart.
Rookie Jake Elliott made his four field goal attempts. Randy Bullock missed the last of his four tries. They’re competing for the job.
The Bengals waived receiver Monty Madaris on Tuesday with an injury settlement. He was placed on an injury list when he showed up for camp.