Bengals corner market

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Dre Kirkpatrick is waiting and learning behind the Bengals' estimable trio of corners.

If you want to know just how much this trio of cornerbacks means to the Bengals defense, don't just look at the numbers even though they are formidable.

Despite all the trauma in the front seven with tackle Geno Atkins' rehab and the spate of injury at linebacker, Cincinnati leads the NFL in defensive passer rating (73) and only Baltimore (seven) has allowed fewer touchdown passes than the Bengals' eight.

And no one goes long on them. According to Elias, the Bengals are second best in the NFL at allowing passes of 40 yards or longer with only two. Only the Patriots are better with none.

But forget all that. If you want to know just how much Leon Hall, Adam Jones, and Terence Newman (alphabetical order) mean, go to a first-round pick that can't break into their rotation.

"It's always going to be frustrating when you want to play. I've never really had to just sit. It's a respect thing, also," said Dre Kirkpatrick Monday as he mulled his three snaps on Sunday. "Those guys are very good at what they do. Hopefully I can be here 10 years, 12 years and a younger guy may be saying that about me. I always say those guys give me words of encouragement. Always."

Kirkpatrick, the club's 2012 first first-round pick at No. 17, has excelled on special teams, where as one of punter Kevin Huber's gunners he is helping lead the NFL's third-best cover team. Still, everyone wants to play. But Kirkpatrick and this year's first-round pick, Darqueze Dennard, are smart enough to take advantage of the smart.

"Pretty much everything," said Kirkpatrick, when asked what he's learned from the three. "Especially T. New and Leon. And Pacman (Jones). Pacman is very smart on the film study.  How those guys come in and prepare, how they break the film down. How they look at different signals and tips that the quarterback may be giving.

"Coming up in college it's all about a role. Just play your role. Here, you're learning that you can make game-changing plays with little adjustments. That's one of those things that these guys are very good at and one of the things I'm learning."

After Newman blanketed Ravens wide receiver Jacoby Jones on one of quarterback Joe Flacco's dreaded deep balls in the middle of the third quarter Sunday, he got a breather and Kirkpatrick checked in for the next snap. Flacco noticed and went after Kirkpatrick covering wide receiver Kamar Aiken downfield and Kirkpatrick batted it away.

"To be really honest with you, I feel like it just come down to competition in our room," Kirkpatrick said. "Every day I know our room come in we have to compete for a job. Five first-rounders, man, it's really hard to get. That's the beauty of it. Those guys don't want to go out there and make mental errors and another guy come in and take his spot so I feel like it's just the competition. That's basically what it is so those guys go out and play hard."

The secondary's performance on Sunday was brilliant, when Flacco had come into the game tied for third  in the NFL with 32 passes of at least 25 yards, but his wide receivers didn't get a sniff. None had a catch longer than 19 yards, Steve Smith Sr. caught three balls, and Torrey Smith had none on just two targets.

That ought to have helped their profootballfocus.com ranking in coverage. Jones (17), Newman (22) and Hall (57) are in the upper half of the league's 107 cornerbacks, according to the web site's rankings.

Jones' pick in front of Smith in the third quarter summed it all up. In their home market the Ravens receivers have been under scrutiny for their inconsistency getting off press coverage and they didn't here when Jones jammed Torrey Smith off the line.

Smith was trying to run a slant to the inside exchanging with the slot receiver. But Hall, following the slot receiver, ran into Smith after Jones' jam and Smith was stunned and stopped. That left Jones in his spot to make the pick, a play he attributed to his film study that showed Smith was going to run a slant.

Kirkpatrick wasn't surprised.

"On the sideline those guys like Pacman are somewhere calling out a play, calling out a route, and nine times out 10 it's the route he called out because of the film study that guys put in," Kirkpatrick said. "A lot of people can say what they want, that guy, he really puts in film study. I go over to his house and he's sitting there running around with his little girl, but he's got his iPad on and he'll stop and say, 'Kirk, look at this.'  He's always ready to coach himself."

Lewis had to laugh. You may not find three different personalities, but they have been the cornerstones that have kept a defense together that has kept a playoff team together the past three seasons. Newman is measured, Hall soft-spoken and Jones ornery.

They sent Jones back to do kickoffs Sunday with the caveat that the Ravens' Justin Tucker is one of the NFL leaders in touchbacks. When Lewis went to remind him again to be careful, Jones, ever mindful of the situation, snapped back at Lewis that the Ravens were kicking from the 20 because of a penalty.

"It's like you're talking to a Doberman, particularly on game day when you talk to Adam. A hungry Doberman," Lewis said. "I think the biggest thing they share is football. They share the ability to learn football, to understand football, and to communicate it very well. That's the key element. They're all three good leaders. They all do it a little differently, but they are good leaders, and want to win very badly."

SPECIAL EFFORT: With 10 special teams snaps, Kirkpatrick was one of the reasons the Bengals outmaneuvered the Ravens in a battle of the league's top two units. Adam Jones didn't get any punt returns to pad his NFL lead, but he fought Jacoby Jones to a draw on kickoff returns and actually averaged more yards (31-24)  than the NFL's fourth best kick returner. He also had a long of 34 yards, compared to Jacoby Jones' long of 29.

Meanwhile, Bengals punter Kevin Huber stayed hot with three kicks averaging 52 yards. He got them out of trouble with a 55-yard dart out of the end zone in the second quarter and with the Ravens trying to block his punt with 15 seconds left from his own 45 with an 11-man rush he unloaded a 49-yarder that went out of bounds at the Ravens 6. He's now second in the league in net average, his 44 behind only the 44.9 of the Colts' Pat McAfee.

The Bengals are also now third in punt coverage and remain first in net average against them after giving Baltimore just 17 yards on two punts.

WHAT STATS: Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson has no use for stats, so it's not going to bother him that quarterback Andy Dalton is ranked 29th in touchdown passes, 20th in yards, and 20th in passer rating. That stuff doesn't matter when you sweep a division foe with two fourth-quarter comebacks.

But Jackson is no doubt taking note of his numbers against pressure and the blitz on Sunday. Dalton book-ended his two biggest third-down passes of the day under huge duress. He hit wide receiver Greg Little for 21 yards on third-and-14 with a blitz right in his face to highlight the first series and he juiced up the last series with his now famous 53-yard lob out of a purple maze in the pocket.

According to profotballfocus.com, Dalton was five of seven for 91 yards and a 113.7 passer rating against pressure on Sunday and when he was blitzed he was five of eight for 147 yards and a 106 rating.

VIP VISITOR: The Rev. Jesse Jackson always makes sure to check in with Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis whenever he's in Cincinnati and for the third time in four years the civil rights icon swung by Paul Brown Stadium Monday.  He greeted the defensive line as they broke from their meeting and a very enthusiastic Wallace Gilberry had his photo snapped with him. So did Carlos Dunlap with Jackson always making sure Lewis was in the picture.

It's old hat for Lewis ever since he got a call in 2010 and was told that Jackson wanted to meet. Since it was a day off, Lewis made sure he called wide receiver Chad Johnson and told him to get down to the stadium to meet him, too.

"I admire him so much," Jackson said of Lewis that day. "His character represents the best in all of us. Coach represents a persona that's true and good for the healing of people. I always judged him in that way and I admire him."

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