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First look for the first

Posted Jun 15, 2012


Dre Kirkpatrick

The two things you need to know about Bengals first-round draft pick Dre Kirkpatrick's first month in the NFL:

He came to play, but he doesn't need to right away because of Cincinnati's depth at cornerback.

"He studies the game as well as any young player I've been around," secondary coach Mark Carrier said as the Bengals wrapped up their spring work this week. "He's still learning how to prepare, but he's got a great foundation."

Kirkpatrick's transition from the national champs at Alabama, a hard one because of the change in style, was slowed early in the voluntaries with a muscle pull. But once he began to put some reps together in the past couple of weeks the coaches thought he progressed.

"The extra week on the field between rookie camp and OTAs, he really benefited," head coach Marvin Lewis said. "You saw the change in some of his mechanics and technique that we're looking for him to do. His competitiveness, his aggressiveness, his ability to learn, and to do and execute the techniques were fine."

It's a little more complicated than relearning, say, how to ride a bike because that's not what Kirkpatrick did in college. As he'll say, "I never backpedaled. We were always press man, Cover 2. It was never just sit there and reading the receiver on his route. It was something new."

New enough that he admits his first three days, "it didn't look pretty," but Dr. Dre, the surgeon of Swag, had his cutting-edge confidence back on Thursday.

"I think I did great. I caught on to it pretty fast," Kirkpatrick said.

Kirkpatrick did give up some long balls and while the national draftnicks had concern about his speed following his 4.5 40s, Carrier and Lewis didn't sound particularly concerned after watching him work.

"I don't care if you're the fastest guy out there, you're going to have to get adjusted to the speed of the game," Carrier said. "You have to understand the tempo. And there'll be another change in tempo with the pads and when the games start. It's a part of it."

What Lewis likes are what he calls Kirkpatrick's "intangibles," and he realizes the OTAs offer "a limited scope," and that Kirkpatrick was asked to only do certain things.

"It's different (for him), with the terminology I'm sure, but the main thing is he's got a lot of the intangibles we were hoping he had and obviously he's got great ability," Lewis said. "He wants to be good. That's the key element in the whole thing. Until you start working with a guy, you're not sure where exactly day-to-day of what his intent is. Until you get a chance to see him come back from play-to-play."

His intent has been pretty clear. Kirkpatrick didn't blink when he was handed an iPad for his playbook. He likes watching his tape.

"That's something I did at 'Bama," he said. "I used to take my iPad and load everything up for the week. Practice film. Going every day and changing it out. So I'm kind of used to it. It was something that helped my game because I was able to see the small details I need to work on."

He's leaning a different game but it's not like the Bengals have to rush Kirkpatrick like they had to do with their previous two first-round corners. In 2006 and 2007, Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall were rookies, respectively, and they began their first years as the third corners before Joseph started regularly in the 10th game and Hall in the ninth.

But after last year's starters Hall (Achilles) and Nate Clements (abdomen) missed the spring, they're expected to be ready for training camp. Plus, veteran free agent Terence Newman and 2010 third-round pick Brandon Ghee were impressive the past month and whenever Adam Jones's hamstring let him, he looked good, too.

Yet, like Carrier said, "If he's good enough, he's going to play."

Because of the crackdown on contact in the spring work, Kirkpatrick wasn't able to show his strong suits, which is bump-and-run, his strength at the line of scrimmage, and his tackling. But Carrier thinks that helped him, too.

"It forces you to work on different things and it allows more reps in things you don't get a lot of when you're in pads," Carrier said. "The college game is just so different right now. I don't know if it’s the offenses or the 20-hour (per week) rule or what, but they're playing a different game and it takes time to adjust."

 

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