Jaguars coach Doug Marrone: Ex-Michigan State star Darqueze Dennard a good fit

By John Reid
The Florida Times-Union

Jacksonville, Fla. — Cornerback Darqueze Dennard is expected to fill the void left by veteran A.J. Bouye, trad ed by the Jaguars to the Denver Broncos in exchange for a fourth-round pick.

The Jaguars signed Dennard, the former Michigan State star, this past week in free agency.

The Jaguars signed cornerback Darqueze Dennard, the former Michigan State star, this past week in free agency.

Though Dennard, 28, played mostly nickel corner for the Bengals, he is expected to play outside cornerback for the Jaguars.

"We feel really good about his skill level to play outside,” coach Doug Marrone said. “He’s a press corner and wants to play outside. He wants to prove that he can do it, and we believe that he can, so it was a good fit for us. D.J. Hayden is our starting nickel corner. I talked to D.J., and we’re extremely happy with him in that spot.”

Here are seven more things to know about Dennard.

1. A Georgia native

Dennard is from Dry Branch, Georgia, a small town just outside of Warner Robbins. He was a three-sport star (football, basketball and track) at Twiggs High School in Jeffersonville, Ga. Listed as a two-star football recruit by ESPN, Dennard played wide receiver and cornerback. As a senior in a track and field, Dennard was the state Class 1A runner-up in the 100 meters in 10.72 seconds.

2. Top cornerback at Michigan State

As a senior in 2013, Dennard became the first Michigan State player to win the Jim Thorpe award, which is awarded annually since 1986 to the nation’s best defensive back. Dennard led the Spartans to a 12-1 record in 2013 after having four interceptions, 10 pass breakups and 60 tackles. He started 40 of 44 career games for the Spartans and totaled 167 tackles with 10 interceptions, 30 pass breakups and three forced fumbles.

3. First-round pick

He was the 24th overall pick in the first round by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2014 NFL Draft. Dennard was the third cornerback selected in the draft behind Justin Gilbert (eighth overall, Browns) and Kyle Fuller (14th overall, Bears).

4. Unable to make immediate impact with Bengals

During his first four seasons with the Bengals, Dennard totaled only two interceptions. Both came during the 2017 season. Because of the Bengals’ depth at cornerback, Dennard started just four games during his first three seasons.

5. Started last season on PUP list

In 2019, Dennard didn’t make his regular-season debut until Week 7 against the Jaguars because of a left knee injury. But according to PFF, Dennard was graded as the 22nd best cornerback in the league last season, allowing 16 completions on 36 targets. He started five games and ended the season with 37 tackles and five pass breakups.

6. Overall impact with Bengals

In 77 career games with the Bengals, which included 24 starts, Dennard totaled 251 tackles, 22 pass breakups, three interceptions and two forced fumbles.

7.Contract specifics with Jaguars

Dennard signed a three-year, $13.5 million contract with the Jaguars, and $6 million is guaranteed. He joins former Cleveland Browns linebacker Joe Schobert and former Arizona Cardinals defensive tackle/end Robert Gunter as unrestricted free agents signed by the Jaguars last week.