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Chess piece Dax Hill and Rookie Josh Newton Heat Up Competition On Bengals Corner

CB Josh Newton during rookie mini camp on Friday, May 10, 2024 at the IEL Practice Facility in Cincinnati, Ohio.
CB Josh Newton during rookie mini camp on Friday, May 10, 2024 at the IEL Practice Facility in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Converted safety Dax Hill looked comfortable lining up as the lead left cornerback and defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo's newest chess piece Tuesday during the Bengals' first practice of mandatory minicamp and when rookie cornerback Josh Newton got his chance to mix it up with the Ones he proceeded to make it uncomfortable.

Just the way cornerbacks coach Charles Burks likes it as he opens an intense brand of competition he expects to last the season on the Bengals corner. On Tuesday, the first shot was fired as Hill began the seven-on-seven drill opposite Pro Bowl hopeful Cam Taylor-Britt before he would be relieved by DJ Turner II on the second unit.

"It's a position battle. It's not solidified. We need everyone," Burks said after the 90-minute workout in the IEL Indoor Facility. "The idea is competition is going to make us all better. When you get to second-and-seven and third down in this league, you need five guys that can cover."

Turner doesn't have to worry. Last year's sleek, speedy second-round draft pick is going to play a ton. He may even start Wednesday. What Tuesday simply showed is how confident they are in Hill and how encouraged they are by Newton. Newton, the fifth-rounder from TCU, was all over IEL like it was NIL. He broke up an out route, defended a deep ball, and held his own in a brief stint against the Ones.

"He makes people uncomfortable, which I love," Burks said. "Because he's serious. He's got an edge. He's one of these guys who takes it to heart. He wakes up and wants to be the best. He's wired the right way and whenever you're wired that way, it does make people uncomfortable because he's separating himself mentally. Cam was the same way coming in."

Check out the best photos from the first day of minicamp on June 11, 2024.

Burks threw in Newton against the Ones Tuesday because he'll do that in training camp to see if he's ready "for the fire." So he'll play some against three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase in training camp.

And here's what is crucial about Hill, the 2022 first-rounder. He'll not only cover Chase in camp, but he'll also work against tight end Mike Gesicki and take his shots against rookie wide receiver Jermaine Burton or who is ever in the slot.

"Dax is the important chess piece. He can play all four of those cover spots," Burks said. "He has the skill set. I'm very comfortable with his development over the last month and a half. You want those guys to have versatility because of the different body types they have to cover on third down."

Taylor-Britt, who broke up a dig route over the middle Tuesday, has been giving him advice but says Hill's knowledge of safety has helped smooth the transition.

"He's falling right in line, isn't he?" Taylor-Britt said. "He looks good. He's a lot closer to the ball now, so I just tell him to calm down, play your game. It's a huge difference from safety. You see things coming at you a lot faster. He can play any position on the field."

Hill says when the offense starts moving around pre-snap is when last season's team-high 1,091 snaps at safety kick in.

"If they motion to something, I kind of already know what the check is. I can change my leverage or change my alignment," Hill said. "You can only talk so much in the film room. You have to apply it on the field."

The biggest adjustment, he says, are the minicamp rules that prevent press coverage. But his 4.3-second speed over 40 yards is a nice counter.

"Just playing off and playing in space with fast guys running right at you. You can't do too much until training camp," Hill said. "I'm flying around out there. I feel comfortable."

Which is the idea. Burks has Hill over there on the left side where so many of the throws go.

"Put him over there where the action is, bank as many live reps as possible, and then work through the details of the cornerback position that show up," said Burks as the competition continues.