Dre Kirkpatrick got his first pick of the year last week in Pittsburgh.
Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick heads into Sunday's Paul Brown Stadium opener (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) against Denver using an offseason he was mentored by one of the greatest Broncos of all-time.
After spending four days at Camp Champ, Kirkpatrick talks with future Hall-of-Famer Champ Bailey once or twice a week to go over a game he wanted to take to what he calls "the next level."
"I needed a mentor at that point and who could be a better guy than a 12-time Pro Bowler?" asked Kirkpatrick this week. "I liked watching Champ growing up. I thought our personalities would go perfectly. He's more of a calm-minded guy and I'm more of an emotional player. I'm a little taller than he is (6-2 to 6-0), but we have a similar body style. I felt like it was a good time to reach out to him."
Kirkpatrick also never forgot what then Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden told him as a rookie.
"Watch Champ Bailey in the red zone. Watch Champ Bailey in the red zone."
Bailey played his final 10 seasons of a 15-year career in Denver, where two of his 52 career interceptions came against the Bengals eight years apart, both at Paul Brown Stadium, Carson Palmer in 2004 and Andy Dalton in 2012, before he retired after the 2013 season. Kirkpatrick has high regard for Bengals secondary coach Kevin Coyle ("He's really pushing me") and Bailey reinforces the coaching through hands-on experience.
"We went on the field just a little bit. He showed me a few small things," Kirkpatrick said. "It was mostly film study. Mental reps. Things that I've transferred to my game now."
Kirkpatrick doesn't want to reveal his secrets, but he's come out productively. According to profootballfocus.com, he's second only to Washington cornerback Josh Norman in defending 60 percent of his targets. He's played the 13th most snaps in the league among corners with 141 and has given up just four catches on 10 targets, according to PFF. The one TD he allowed came on Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's perfect back-shoulder throw in the opener.
As much as anything, Kirkpatrick likes to emulate Bailey's no-frills, low-profile approach.
"He's a quiet guy. Real laid back. If you don't talk about ball, you're not going to get much out of him," Kirkpatrick. "It's just great to be able to reach out to a guy like that and talk to him. If he sees something on film, we go over it early in the week. He's very humble. The guy's not looking for attention at all."
EIFERT DOUBTFUL: After Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis met the media informally after Friday's walk-through on his 58th birthday, it sure sounded like Pro Bowl tight end Tyler Eifert won't be back for Sunday's Paul Brown Stadium opener (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) against Denver.
It was made official an hour later with a doubtful designation. Although slot cornerback Darqueze Dennard (hamstring) went full in Friday's walk-through he was called questionable. So was backup right tackle Eric Winston (back), limited on Friday after missing the first part of the week.
"It won't be an iffy proposition. It will be very clear to me," Lewis said of the call to suit up Eifert (ankle) for the first time since the Pro Bowl. "I don't know when he can go and feel good about it and that's when he'll play."
Since Eifert was limited in his first two practices of the year on Wednesday and Thursday and Friday wasn't a practice, its doubtful things would be clear by game time. Lewis did say when Eifert does come back, he won't play a full game and is going to play a partial amount of snaps.
Lewis isn't looking to beat up Eifert with practicing contact . He's missed 20 games during the last three seasons with a series of problems. But he does want Eifert to get around bodies and Lewis is pleased with the work he's getting.
"It's good for him mentally. The physical part takes care of itself," Lewis said. "There's also a mental adjustment that has to happen when you haven't had the eight weeks of football everyone else has had. Six weeks of preseason and two weeks of the season. It's been good for him to get around bodies the last couple of days in practice. That's the one part that's hard to simulate on the side field."
Whether that means he'll come back Thursday night here against the Dolphins (8:20-NFL Network) or Oct. 9 in Dallas is anyone's guess. But he's close.
"The important thing is not only how fast you think, but how your body responds," Lewis said. "It's easy to run (routes) on air, but there's a confidence factor that comes from having to adjust (to defenders) when you've been non-weight bearing. This is the final step."