CINCINNATI -- What separates Antonio Brown from much of the wide-receiving pack?
Largely, it's his veteran savvy as a route-runner. Like other elite wide receivers, the Pittsburgh Steelers' superstar knows exactly how to use a defender's own body against him. He's crafty enough to push off a cornerback late in a route without a referee noticing, and smart enough to cause opposing defensive backs to crash into one another when he times his sideline-to-sideline jog in motion at the snap. Brown has all the tricks of the pass-catching trade at his disposal.
What's the best way to counter those tricks? For a cornerback to learn a few more of his own.
Bailey, the 12-time Pro Bowl cornerback who retired in 2014, spent nearly all of last week teaching Kirkpatrick the finer tricks of the coverage game in California. The four-day crash course was exactly what Kirkpatrick felt he needed to help elevate his game as he entered training camp, which begins in Cincinnati on Friday.
"It's just a different eye from what I had been taught," Kirkpatrick said of Bailey's analysis. "It made a lot of sense."
Along with trying to improve, Kirkpatrick and his agent, Brian Overstreet, are hoping the trip out west also sends a positive message to the Bengals' front office as Kirkpatrick enters the final year of his rookie contract. The hope is the organization will view this as a sign of how seriously the former first-round pick takes his craft when he's away from Cincinnati. Due to hit free agency in the spring, the former first-round pick is beginning his fifth-year option season.
Before Kirkpatrick even got on an airplane to visit Bailey, he sent the potential future Hall of Famer all of his plays from 2015 to review. Not only did Bailey examine Kirkpatrick's routes on his own, he also broke them down with Kirkpatrick once the young cornerback arrived.
"We watched film together, and it was mostly about just picking up on the small things, like as far as how my stance is at the beginning [of a route]," Kirkpatrick said. "I'm opening the gate too fast. He had seen where he wanted me to stay more square, to be more of an aggressor, because of my long arms and my length."
Kirkpatrick was quick to note that his current coaches do a "great job" of teaching and passing along tricks themselves, but having a player of Bailey's caliber helped those messages resonate.
"I just never heard it in that terminology to where I could understand it as good as he put it," Kirkpatrick said. "He was actually on the field showing me a few of those things.
"At the end of the day, you've got to listen to a guy like that, because he's proven himself. He's established himself. He's just a humble guy. He's down to earth, and he's a guy I can relate to. We've got pretty much the same personality. Mine may be a little loud, but for the most part we do some of the same things, and we like some of the same things."
Last season, Kirkpatrick's first as an full-time starter, he had 70 tackles and no interceptions. As more of a backup the season before, he picked off three passes, including two in a driving rainstorm against Peyton Manning in a home Monday night win against Denver.