Will cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick re-establish himself in the defense this season?
Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick had a poor season to put it nicely in 2017. Cincinnati’s fan base has expressed their frustrations this offseason with the heavily-paid cornerback and many are ready to pull the plug. I feel a bit differently about Kirkpatrick and think that he will have a better season in 2018.
Kirkpatrick had his best seasons when playing under former defensive backs coach Vance Joseph, now head coach of the Denver Broncos. During his 2015 season as a first-time starter, Kirkpatrick had 16 passes defended under Joseph and since Joseph left, his play has been inconsistent. Cincinnati brought in cornerbacks coach Daronte Jones this offseason who has worked with Joseph and Kirkpatrick showed excitement about the signing.
The Bengals really saw inconsistency from Kirkpatrick last season after the young cornerback came into camp with a broken hand. He would then struggle battling nagging injuries throughout the year keeping him from reaching his full potential in 2017. With a full offseason to recover, Kirkpatrick is coming in healthy and with a chip on his shoulder. He will have plenty of opportunities this year to prove he’s worth that contract after cornerbacks William Jackson III and Darqueze Dennard had breakout seasons in 2017 and will likely see fewer targets from quarterbacks in 2018.
We have seen Kirkpatrick play at a high level and I think he can reach that again this season under Jones and new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. Cincinnati’s defense will have plenty of new looks in 2018 which will make it less predictable than in years past. If he can stay healthy, I think we see a good year from Kirkpatrick and the Bengals defense takes another step forward.