On Tuesday evening, Twitter was set ablaze with Bengals fans clamoring over the recent news that first round draft pick, corner Dre Kirkpatrick from Alabama injured his leg while prepping for training camp. There was an instant debate about how severely this injury would affect the Bengals in the coming months after it was announced that Kirkpatrick would miss training camp and possibly the preseason. To some fans, this seemed like the end of the world; to others, it was just another day of the life of a football player. Being that there is much debate over this topic at the moment, let’s break down what the significance of this injury is, and what it actually means for the Bengals organization.
First off, the cornerback position is one of the deepest on the Bengals roster right now. This position includes six former first round selections. Kirkpatrick is one of them, but there are five others in Nate Clements, Terence Newman, Pacman Jones, Jason Allen, and incumbent starter Leon Hall. Also former third round selection from Wake Forest, Brandon Ghee is fighting for a roster spot as is this year’s fifth round selection, Shaun Prater from Iowa. There is a tremendous mixture on the Bengals roster at the cornerback position of youth and experience and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer always seems to get the best out of his players both inexperienced and veterans alike. All of these players will be jockeying for position during training camp and the preseason, and there is a possibility that if Kirkpatrick starts the season on the PUP list, this will give one extra player an opportunity to make the 53-man roster for at least the first six weeks of the season. This will allow coaches to further evaluate their players and make a better decision on which to keep on the roster going forward.
Let’s take the case of Brandon Ghee for example. Ghee was drafted in 2010 in the third round by the Bengals and they have been developing him on the practice squad since. Ghee has tremendous upside as he is 6’0″, just under 200 pounds and runs a sub 4.4 40-yard dash. He has all of the intangibles that coaches love, and they have just been waiting for Ghee to develop some confidence in his game and take it to the level in which they know he is capable of playing. It appears that he has finally done so this off season. During OTA’s defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and secondary coach Mark Carrier had a tremendous amount of praise for the way Ghee was performing during mini camps. If Ghee can maintain his same level of play when the pads come on, then he can have a great shot of making this team.
So, if Ghee can make the team, that would be seven corners on the Bengals roster when they normally only keep six. Who would be the odd man out? With Kirkpatrick out for a substantial amount of time, coaches will be able to evaluate more of the veterans on the roster by giving them more reps during training camp to evaluate them better and make a much more informed decision about roster cuts when that time comes. If Kirkpatrick starts the season on the PUP list, that gives the team an extra roster spot for that amount of time to further evaluate their cornerbacks and make the decision on who to let go when Kirkpatrick returns to his spot on the 53-man roster. There is no chance at all that the Bengals would attempt to put Kirkpatrick on waivers to try to get him to the practice squad as he would easily be swallowed up by another franchise in a heartbeat. So there will be a small window of evaluation to the other players, but it is better than only having training camp for the evaluation process.