The Cincinnati Bengals quietly had a solid secondary last year. It was unexpected to some, as they appeared to be in trouble when the season began. Injuries immediately took a toll on the depth and age seemed as though it would be a big factor, with two of the active cornerbacks past the age of 30. Many of the experts, as well as fans, were worried about their ability to cover, especially speedy receivers matched up against the older players. Leon Hall was also coming off a major injury, and it was unknown just how effective he would be. After a rocky start, they surprised everybody by coming together quickly. The perpetually underrated Hall was as good as he ever was, and Terence Newman looked as though he found the Fountain of Youth, quietly blanketing his man all year. Adam Jones continued to revive his career, and was steadily fantastic, grading out as the team’s best CB.
One player who was unable to contribute due to injury was first round pick Dre Kirkpatrick. He missed a lot of time with nagging injuries early in the season, and though he did get on the field, it wasn’t with any regularity. Going into 2013, he finds himself needing to prove he was worth that early selection, even though he will compete with the same cast of CBs as last year. After spending the offseason getting healthy, Kirkpatrick will begin the arduous task of trying to win a starting job. He’s confident in his ability to do so, saying his goal was to start, and that he would do so. Cincinnati fans hope he’s right.
The Bengals re-signed Newman and Jones this offseason, but Newman is another year older, while Jones worked best as a third CB, as he also serves as the team’s primary punt returner. Newman showed he is valuable, but the team would love to see Kirkpatrick step up and take over the starting spot. He has excellent size and is a physical player, but will need to work on his ball skills and durability. If he misses significant time again this season, he would be in danger of being saddled with the dreaded “bust” label. For now, optimism reigns, and fans are excited to see what he can do. If his belief in himself is any indication, it’ll be great things.