Count Bengals vets among those curious to see young DBs Friday

CINCINNATI -- Way back in late May when the Cincinnati Bengals first held organized team activities, Dre Kirkpatrick let teammate Andre Smith in on a little secret.

"Hey," Kirkpatrick said, pointing to rookie safety Derron Smith, "he's going to be good."

This week when Derron Smith instinctively stopped in his tracks and reached up and back for an unexpected mid-practice interception, Kirkpatrick said Andre Smith reported back to him, praising him for the prophecy.

Bengals starters like Kirkpatrick are looking for more plays like that Friday night when rookie defensive backs like Derron Smith get their first taste of live NFL football. At some point in the first quarter when the second- and third-team defensive units enter the preseason opener against the New York Giants, Kirkpatrick and Andre Smith will turn into casual observers like the rest of us.

"I get real excited just seeing the guys who never play get a chance to play; to see what they're about," fourth-year safety George Iloka said.

That's especially the case in the secondary, Iloka said.

"We've got a lot of talent, we've got a lot of depth," Iloka said. "I won't say I'm a spectator. I'm still in my football mindset, but I like seeing what they can do. Not that I'm evaluating them. It's just, man, this guy's been doing well in practice, let's see how it turns out in the field."

Iloka might be partial to the secondary, but he still has reason to be interested in seeing how they fare Friday. Cincinnati already has a starting secondary that will be tough to crack. Aside from Iloka, Kirkpatrick, Reggie Nelson, Adam Jones and the combination of Leon Hall and Darqueze Dennard, there mightt only exist another three spots on the 53-man roster.

Safeties Shawn Williams and Shiloh Keo appear to have an inside track on the next two safety spots, but Derron Smith certainly is in that mix, too. Chris Lewis-Harris or Brandon Ghee might claim one of the final cornerback jobs, but rookies Josh Shaw and Troy Hill can't be overlooked.

Iloka and Kirkpatrick expressed interest in seeing how undrafted rookies Floyd Raven Sr. and Erick Dargan settle into the game, too.

"Practice is great and all, but it's what you do on game days that matters the most," Iloka said.

With respect to Derron Smith, Kirkpatrick has been most impressed by his seemingly natural instincts for finding the football.

"He does everything right, but my thing is, they've just got to keep it up," Kirkpatrick said. "Everything is cool the first couple of weeks, but it's a grind. Your body gets tired. Your legs get tired. You're going through all this adversity because your mind is playing tricks on you. How do you withstand that? That's what I constantly tell them."

Apparently the rookies aren't adverse to listening.

"Josh Shaw told me the other day in the locker room, he was like, 'Hey, I don't care about playing. It's just the fact that y'all are going to make my career better because I'm playing behind you guys and I'm just learning,'" Kirkpatrick said. "That just shows us how important the veterans are to these guys."

In one more day, we'll start getting a clearer picture of how important the young defensive backs can be to the Bengals.