Skip to main content

Quick Hits: Why Bengals CB Coach Thinks He Just Got A First-Rounder; A Phone Call And Dinner Helps Ted Karras Close Generation Gap

Dax Hill 121823

Since Charles Burks has been the Bengals cornerbacks coach, they drafted his current starters in the second round, Cam Taylor-Britt in 2022 and DJ Turner last year. Now he thinks he's adding a first-round cornerback and they didn't even put in a card.

That's how he sees starting safety Dax Hill joining the cornerbacks room.

"He can cover anybody on the field. He's a natural cover player," Burks said Monday as the 2024 draft sunk in. "He's got the length to cover bigger targets, short-area quickness to cover space guys. He has the balance to anchor at the top of the route. He's got a lot of the tools that the elite corners around the league have."

The way Burks looks at it, making the switch suddenly gives his room a formidable brew of versatility and depth for a defense that needs to figure out how to cover this dizzying wave of receivers that keeps getting drafted.

"You need four to five guys to roll out there as starters during the course of the season. It's a long season and there's a lot of wear and tear," Burks said. "You want a cornerbacks room with versatility because there are so many different types of receivers you have to cover.

"You've got DJ Turner with his top-end speed, Dax with his speed and size, Cam Taylor-Britt with his speed, power, and ball skills. When DJ Ivey gets back (from ACL surgery), you have his length. You have Mike Hilton (who played some safety last year in addition to the slot), you have Jalen Davis. You need that kind of versatility."

Hilton is in the slot, which is where Hill played as a rookie when Hilton went down and couldn't play in Tampa Bay. Against the Hall of Fame exhibit Tom Brady, Hill played more than half his total rookie snaps (66) that day the Bengals defense turned over Brady three times in the December crunch of a playoff push.

"We won and he responded," Burks said. "He played it in college, but that week was the first time we had asked him to rep it in practice and for him to prepare like that and play it for the first time in the NFL was phenomenal."

That's how Burks knows it's going to be a dream to work with Hill. He did not only that week, but many others in coordinating third-down coverage. It will be recalled that huge third down in the red zone when Hill defended Bills tight end Dawson Knox during the Divisional win in Buffalo later that rookie year.

"All cornerbacks are interchangeable on third down," Burks said. "Who they cover is in the game plan."

But you have to cover, which is why Burks has an open door for Hill.

"A natural cover player," Burks said.

Turner has yet to welcome Dax Hill to the Bengals cornerbacks room. But then, why should he? Been there, done that. Turner and Hill played together at Michigan, where Turner was on the outside and Hill basically played inside cornerback in nickel.

"It's nothing new," Turner said. "A hundred percent (he's embraced it). Dax is going to do whatever the team needs him to do and that's what we're going to do. They want him to perform at corner, he'll perform at corner."

Hill, as always, says the right things.

"I could take it one or two ways. Just take it the best way to look at it and use it as an opportunity for me and my family," Hill said. "I feel like I have a high ceiling for myself whatever position it is. I'm confident in myself. I don't really have a bad sense toward it."

After Hill was drafted as a safety in the first round in 2022, he played 131 snaps, most of them in nickel. Then when he played safety for the first time full-time last season, he led the defense with nearly 1,100 snaps. He admitted he feels like he still hasn't showed what he can do after two seasons of shifting roles.

"A little bit. I just try to grab at anything I can and take advantage of it," Hill said. "There were ups and downs the first year. Last year there were ups and downs. Every year I feel is going to be different, but it's something I can always learn from."

SCOUT TURNER: The Bengals picked Turner's brain on some of his Michigan teammates before the draft and he was pumped two of them are his teammates again. The Bengals took a Michigan defensive captain in the second round, tackle Kris Jenkins, and a Michigan offensive captain in the fourth round before he transferred to Iowa, tight end Erick All.

Before he missed much of his last year at Michigan with a herniated back disk in 2022 and then suffered a torn ACL halfway through last season at Iowa, All had shown Turner plenty.

It was no surprise to Turner that All took the draft call from Taylor during and/or after a workout.

"That's such an Erick All (thing)," Turner said. "He's one of the hardest working dudes I ever met … He was a captain of our team and was a first-round tight end. We always said that."

Turner came into Michigan with All and Hill, so it was natural that he reached out to him after the draft. He's also got high regard for Jenkins.

"Great person off the field. Dominant on it," Turner said. "Leadership. Off the field. he was one of the dudes you would call and on the field he'd do anything for the team."

TALKING TED: The Bengals scouts say their last pick of the day, seventh-round center Matt Lee out of Miami, has the outgoing personality of Bengals starter Ted Karras. As if on cue after his workout Monday, Karras dialed up Lee from the locker room.

"Congratulations. How are you feeling? I hope you had a weekend," Karras said. "When do you get here? When it starts, it starts. I just wanted to welcome you."

Or something like that.

He's just fine with the generation gap.

Karras turned 31 back in March and before he met first-round pick Amarius Mims for dinner at Carlo and Johnny's Friday night along with left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., and Bengals director of player development Eric Ball, Karras realized the age difference.

"I was a little bit nervous relating to a guy that young. He was amazing," Karras said. "His excitement, his enthusiasm.

"What an addition. I couldn't have been more pleased with the dinner and I'm really excited for him to get in this room and have the career he's going to have."

Now that the 6-8 Mims is joining the 6-8 Orlando and Trent Brown, Karras says there has to be a name change for the Bengals tackles.

Now, it can't be "Brown County," so Karras is settling for "Cincinnati Skyline."

"Plus," Karras said, "They're a sponsor."