A USA Today first-team All-American as a Michigan State senior, first-round 2014 draft pick brought Bengals a resume of high-caliber performance, consistency and character ... Behind a veteran CB corps, he opened rookie season as a special teams mainstay (second on team with 10 tackles), and he also had a sack on defense ... Started 38 games for Michigan State over his final three seasons, and in 2013 he helped lead the Spartans to No. 1 national rankings in fewest yards allowed per game and lowest third-down conversion percentage ... His style of play and reliability has inspired favorable comparisons with CB Leon Hall, who has started for Bengals since his first-round selection out of Michigan in 2007.
Career transactions: Selected by Cincinnati in first round of 2014 NFL Draft (24th overall) ... Signed with Bengals on 6-12-14.
2014 highlights: Played in 14 games (Games 2-7 and 9-16) .. Inactive for Games 1 (hip) and 8 (hamstring) ... Logged seven tackles on defense (one for loss) ... Made NFL debut on Sept. 14 vs. Atlanta on special teams, with one tackle ... Played on defense for first time on Sept. 21 vs. Tennessee, and logged two tackles, including a three-yard sack of Jake Locker ... Had three tackles on defense Oct. 19 at Indianapolis ... Two special teams tackles on Oct. 26 vs. Baltimore ... One tackle on defense, a pass defensed, and one special teams tackle on Nov. 16 at New Orleans ... Led team with two special teams tackles on Dec. 7 vs. Pittsburgh ... One tackle on defense Dec. 14 at Cleveland ... In Wild Card playoff on 1-5-15 at Indianapolis, had two tackles on defense and forced a fumble by RB Daniel Herron.
One game matters: Despite lettering four years at Twiggs Co. High School (Jeffersonville, Ga.) — and helping lead the team to an 11-2 record as a senior — Dennard went virtually unrecruited by colleges. He did not have a viable scholarship offer, even from a junior college, entering his final prep game. But fate cast him in that last game against Dooly County High and WR Keith Mumphrey, who had already signed with Michigan State. MSU coaches, on hand to watch Mumphrey, saw Dennard post an outstanding performance against Mumphrey and convinced head coach Mark Dantonio to sign him. “I probably wouldn’t have played any more football (if not for that game),” Dennard says. “I’d still be around the Macon (Ga.) area, working a nine-to-five.”
College: Played four seasons (2010-13) at Michigan State, playing 44 games with 40 starts ... 2013 winner of the Thorpe Award, given annually to college football’s top DB ... Totaled 167 career tackles, 10 INTs, 30 total passes defensed, three forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and a blocked FG ... Earned reputation as a strong tackler against the run ... In 2013, became first MSU CB to earn first-team All-America since Harlon Barnett (Cincinnati native from Princeton High School) in 1989 ... First MSU player to win the Thorpe Award since its 1986 inception.
Personal: Hometown is Dry Branch, Ga. ... Lettered in football, basketball and track at Twiggs County High School (Jeffersonville, Ga.) ... Two-way player in prep football, seeing action at WR and CB ... Communications major at Michigan State ... First name is pronounced “dar-KWEZ” and last name is pronounced “deh-NARD.”
The Bengals’ Mike Nugent is halfway to his goal of kicking 20 years in the NFL. Which means if he makes it, half his career will come dealing with extra points that weren’t as automatic as they were during his first 10 seasons.
The spine of the Bengals locker room still runs through Andrew Whitworth and Domata Peko. But young leaders like Jeremy Hill (above) and Giovani Bernard are emerging.
The addition of four rookie tight ends means, for the moment, the Bengals can let Ryan Hewitt continue to develop into what some in the building already see as potentially the NFL's best fullback.