Coming into the NFL as a first round pick entails plenty of pressure. Entering your second season after being selected in round one the year prior after contributing next to nothing in your rookie season ups that pressure gauge another couple of notches, however. For Dre Kirkpatrick of the Cincinnati Bengals, the cornerback will be dealing with these circumstances when the 2013 season commences.
Leading into his first season wearing stripes, Kirkpatrick was nursing a knee injury that prevented him from participating in any preseason action. That crucial development as a rookie was taken away from the former Alabama Crimson Tide corner, and it really set back his maturation process in the pro game. Those knee issues lingered until the season’s eighth week when Kirkpatrick was finally able to take the field for some live game action. Just four tackles and five weeks later, however, the Bengals were again without their first rounder due to a concussion suffered against the San Diego Chargers in Week 13.
That final issue landed Kirkpatrick on injured reserve (IR) and put his status as a potential first round bust up for debate. Clearly the jury is still out on what the now 23-year-old will make of his career, but there’s no denying the fact that he has something to prove in the year ahead.
As for the competition that Kirkpatrick will be facing to earn a starting gig in 2013 (other than his ailing knee), both Terence Newman and Adam Jones return to the team this coming season. Leon Hall has one side of the secondary on lockdown, so those two veterans will be the main hurdles for Kirkpatrick to overcome in his quest to become a starter.
Legal issues still haunt Jones and Newman will be 35 years of age when Week 1 rolls around, but Kirkpatrick will have some significant progress to make in camp if he wants to beat one of them out for playing time. Going up against a receiver like A.J. Green will make any corner step up his game or risk getting torched on a regular basis in practice. Still, it may be asking a little much for a player as green as Kirkpatrick to find a starting role in this Bengals secondary in 2013.
While injuries can always pop up at a moment’s notice and most defenses are in nickel coverage more often than not these days, Kirkpatrick must stay healthy in order to prove himself this season. The Bengals have to at least be hoping that they will know what they have in this kid after the 2013 season gets to the midway point.