After watching the Cincinnati Bengals draft a cornerback in the first round just two years after using a first-round pick on him, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick had a surprising reaction.
“I was happy we got a corner,” Kirkpatrick said of first-round pick Darqueze Dennard during a break from the team’s voluntary offseason workout program Wednesday afternoon.
“I actually was telling them that we needed a corner,” Kirkpatrick added. “We obviously know that some of the guys are up in age, and they don’t have that long to be here. They’re on their last legs. Not to knock those guys. They’re still going to continue to work and still continue to compete, but I’m 24 and I’m the youngest one out of the group. We need some young legs to come in here.”
Terence Newman, who started 13 games last year, will be 36 when the season begins. Adam Jones (13 starts) turns 31 before the Week 4 bye. And Leon Hall (five starts before suffering a season-ending Achilles injury) is 29.
Kirkpatrick’s legs are even younger than his age would suggest after appearing in only five games during an injury-plagued rookie season in 2012 while playing 28 percent of the defensive snaps last year.
A knee injury sidelined him for most of his rookie season, and surgery to repair the knee last spring slowed his offseason preparations for 2013 and a hamstring injury forced him to miss a pair of games in September.
But he played well after Hall went down and finished tied for the team lead with three interceptions despite the limited action.
Kirkpatrick said he is expecting even bigger things in 2014, and it has nothing to do with the presence of another first-round cornerback — the team’s fifth — on the roster.
“First off, I’m healthy, therefore I can start when everyone else starts,” Kirkpatrick said. “Last year and my rookie year I didn’t get the chance do all these things because I had injuries holding me back. Now I get to go out and compete with the other guys on the same level at the same time. I’m more ready than ever. I’m more focused than ever.
“Every day is a challenge, constantly,” he added. “You’ve got to think: all those guys are still good. You’ve got to think that all those guys still know what they’re supposed to do and all those guys are able to still do what they’re supposed to do. So every day I’m out there fighting for my job.”
Kirkpatrick said he likes what he sees from Dennard and envisions them being a formidable tandem for years, although he still doesn’t know much about his new teammate other than what he’s seen on film and during brief work on the field the last few days.
“I’m still learning about him,” Kirkpatrick said. “I may say some certain things to him to get that conversation out of him. He’s still kind of quiet. But I get it. I went through that stage where you really want to be to yourself and really figure everybody out. But like I said, I’m going to welcome him with warm arms and hopefully we can have a duo.”