Dre Kirkpatrick ready for starting role

CINCINNATI -- The first two cornerbacks drafted in the first round in the Marvin Lewis era -- Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph -- started more than half the team's games as rookies and became full-time starters as second-year players.

Dre Kirkpatrick, the Cincinnati Bengals' latest first-round cornerback, can't predict if he'll crack the starting lineup in his second year. All he knows is he's ready if called upon.

“No doubt,” he said. “It’s not going to be on me to make that call. But I’ll be ready. It won’t be because of me not being ready. I will be ready. I’m just playing my role.”

Kirkpatrick's development is behind the likes of Hall and Joseph because of a knee injury that essentially redshirted him last year. But Kirkpatrick has made up for some lost time, becoming one of the bigger surprises so far in this year's camp. His best play came Saturday when he leaped in the air and broke up a deep pass intended for Ryan Whalen.

“It was mind-blowing a little bit because nobody expected him to get there and he got there," receiver Mohamed Sanu said.

Kirkpatrick didn't fare too well in the team's Oklahoma drill Sunday. He was put on his back by a block from Tyrone Goard, a rookie wide receiver out of Eastern Kentucky. By the end of practice, Kirkpatrick could be heard on the sideline, telling everyone that no receiver caught a pass on him in team drills.

This is what you would come to expect from a player who was nicknamed "Swagga" at Alabama. But some believed he had too much confidence.

"He's another one of those guys who, when he came in here, he thought the world revolved around him a little bit," Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer told the Associated Press. "I think he's finally woke up and said, if we don't do it the way they want it done, if we don't understand that this is how it's going to be, they're not going to play."

The Bengals drafted Kirkpatrick with the 17th overall pick in 2012, which came from the Oakland Raiders in the Carson Palmer trade. While Kirkpatrick has made significant strides this year, he may need to wait another year to become a full-time starter. The Bengals will likely go, especially early, with Hall and Terence Newman, who was re-signed this offseason. Kirkpatrick should get on the field as a nickelback.

"He's improved a lot from last year when he was hurt," Zimmer said Sunday. "He understands the system a lot better now. He's playing a lot more confidently and playing with a lot better technique. He's actually done really well. I've been really pleased."