Oct 26, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (27) during warmups prior to the game against the Baltimore Ravens at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
After a rookie season spent on injured reserve and some struggles the year after, Dre Kirkpatrick was wrongfully getting critiqued by fans. Not even a full two years on the team and some fans were unjustly labeling him a bust due to injuries. If they had waited longer, they would have seen the moments we have seen; the clutch plays and the extremely promising and talented looks of a future starting cornerback.
During the 2013 season, Dre Kirkpatrick finally received some playing time due to injuries in the secondary. He was finally in the game, finally getting the reps he needed. Something fans need to realize is that cornerbacks experience the hardest transition from college to the pros. Look at Patrick Peterson‘s tape. He was thrown into the starting role and it took him a few games to fully get up to speed; now he’s an All-Pro.
Fans were eager, and though Kirkpatrick committed some “rookie” mistakes that showed he needed to get up to speed, he made some huge plays for the Bengals last year. He ripped a ball out of Antonio Gates‘ hands for an interception and even had a “pick six” against the Ravens that helped seal the win and propel the Bengals into the playoffs. Not only that, but he had three interceptions; tied for first on the team with Adam Jones.
In 2014, he finally stepped into the spotlight. On Monday Night Football, he stepped in while Terence Newman was struggling. Kirkpatrick not only played lights out, but he got another “pick six,” which sealed the win and propel the Bengals to the playoffs once again.
Unjustly, some fans were too eager with Kirkpatrick and wanted him to be starting after his rookie year. While he is finally getting his turn to start, Kirkpatrick has shown he can be a great cornerback and the ball hawk fans have been looking for.
Remember Stephon Gilmore and Morris Claiborne? Two cornerbacks selected before him and were thrown into the starting role. Funny thing is Kirkpatrick has six interceptions these past two seasons, that’s how many Gilmore has his entire career and three more than Claiborne has had. When putting things into perspective, Kirkpatrick has done well in a limited role, but now there are no limits.
Kirkpatrick is going to finally receive the playing time we’ve been wanting. He’s showed poise, a propensity for being clutch, and an ability to play with a fire. The Bengals just exercised his fifth-year option, and Kirkpatrick could continue to prove his doubters wrong and easily be the biggest surprise on defense this year.
His flashes of brilliance prove the sky is the limit for Kirkpatrick. But since we’re talking about skies, let’s not forget, the Bengals’ secondary is a “No Fly Zone.” Expect a big year from #27 and a possible visit to the Pro Bowl for him.
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