When you watch the Bengals cornerbacks in training camp, Dre Kirkpatrick stands out for more than his long dreadlocks. At 6’2”, the former Alabama star is two inches taller than any other corner on the roster.
“When I’m talking to Dre, we’re looking eye-to-eye to each other,” said wide receiver Mohamed Sanu. “You don’t see that very often from cornerbacks.”
Kirkpatrick’s size and long wingspan are big reasons why the Bengals selected him with the 17th overall pick in last year’s draft, and now that his injured left knee is healthy, Dre is showing his NFL potential.
“He’s done really well – much better than I anticipated he would,” said defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. “He has long arms, he understands concepts now, and he’s buying in to coaching.
“He’s improved so much from where he was last year before he got hurt. I figured that he’d start out kind of slow because he hadn’t done much because of the knee. I figured that he would be a lot further behind than what he is.”
“Dre is looking good,” said Sanu. “He’s big, physical, strong, fast, and he’s so rangy that it’s hard to get away from him sometimes. He looks healthy and explosive and he’s going to be really good for us this year.”
After only appearing in five games during his injury-plagued rookie season, Kirkpatrick joked on the first day of training camp that he was probably the only player in the NFL looking forward to the pre-season grind.
After eight practices, Dre is still enjoying it.
“I’m just happy to be back out there with the team,” said Kirkpatrick. “I’m getting coached up every day and I’m just giving it my all to be the best I can be.
“I feel like I’ve done alright. There’s still room for improvement, but my goal was to cut down on my mental errors and I feel like I’ve done a good job of that.”
Kirkpatrick has had several nice pass breakups in the first week of camp, and can often be seen listening intently to one-on-one instruction from Zimmer.
“Zim is constantly in my ear – good or bad,” said Kirkpatrick. “He’s constantly monitoring everything that I do.”
“He’s been really good about listening and learning and he’s having fun,” said Zimmer. “One of the things that I like about him is that he loves to play. He loves to compete and I can’t say anything bad about him right now.”
While many observers expected Kirkpatrick to be rusty after being sidelined for most of last season, Sanu says that hasn’t been the case.
“You don’t see much rust and he’s knocking a lot of it off – I can tell you that,” Mohamed told me. “He’s always in the right position and I really haven’t seen many times where Dre was beat bad or there was a lot of separation away from him.”
With a tough rookie season behind him, the Bengals tallest cornerback is determined to stand out for his play.
“I had such high expectations for myself being the first pick for the Bengals that I felt like I let everybody down,” said Kirkpatrick. “But God gave me another opportunity and I’m just trying to make the best of it.
“I have so much to prove. I just want it so bad and I’m going to be ready no matter what. I’m doing everything in my power to understand the game better, be in position, and eliminate my mental errors.”
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