Updated: 8-27-13, 6:20 a.m.
This is one of the reasons defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is known as one of the best secondary coaches around, which was his job his first seven seasons in the NFL.
He doesn't panic about young players. When he saw cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick coming out of Alabama two years ago he thought he had the tools to be a fine NFL cornerback and he still does despite Saturday night's less than first-round performance.
"Not much in that game," Zimmer said with a wry smile after Monday's walkthrough when asked if he saw anything to build off. "He's played well. He's been good. He's going to have to tackle better. He'll be fine. I'm not worried about him at all."
A knee injury and concussion limited Kirkpatrick to less than 40 scrimmage snaps in his rookie season and virtually reduced him to no practice. Because it was a walkthrough Monday it wasn't clear if Kirkpatrick is back after suffering what was believed to be concussion-like symptoms after Saturday's game.
"Everybody is all nervous about Kirkpatrick. He got beat up pretty good by Dez Bryant and even a couple of their other guys," Zimmer said of the Dallas receiver corps. "If it's a real game, we're doing different things differently. He'll be fine. This is how you learn. You don't learn anything going out and shutting down a guy every time. Terence Newman, when he was a rookie, he had a couple of rough days. That happens in the NFL. They're playing against good players."
Kirkpatrick picked up two pass interference penalties, the first one when he put his hand on Bryant up the sideline and had good enough coverage that the throw hit him in his back because he didn't turn his head. Zimmer said he has been warning Kirkpatrick in practice that he can't put his hand on the receiver at that point.
On the second one, Zimmer said he had never seen Kirkpatrick foul up his technique in that particular fashion because "he tried to press him way out here and he hit him in the back. Just bad technique. The thing they understand (after a bad game) is, 'Shoot, I've got to play with technique or I'm going to get hammered.' He's been working his technique. He lost a little bit of confidence on the (first) pass interference."
And when Bryant beat Kirkpatrick on a back-shoulder play on third-and-four for a TD, Kirkpatrick was there.
"He's got to make the play," Zimmer said. "He was in good enough position to make the play; he just didn't make the play."
Two fellow first-round cornerbacks have already counseled Kirkpatrick. Leon Hall (2007) and Adam Jones (2005) are telling Kirkpatrick (2012) that it happens to the best of them.
"I've had a day like that. I told Dre to keep his head up," Jones said. "That wasn't nearly as (bad) as my first preseason game. Dre has some stuff he has to work on. It's easy stuff that he can fix. As long as he keeps his head up and thinks about the next play, he'll be all right."
Hall's second NFL game was famously bad when the Browns beat him for three touchdowns during the 51-45 Bloody Sunday loss in Cleveland.
He talked to Kirkpatrick during the game and plans to again.
"The advice I would give to him is obviously forget about it, but realize what you have to do to try and get through it," Hall said. "It may happen again, but you've got to start that process (on how to fix it). I would assume just knowing him he's disappointed in how he played, but he's a confident player. He's been playing well through camp and in the other preseason games. I think he realizes he's a good player. He just had a bad day."
For Jones, it was just another step in the transition from West Virginia to the pros.
"It's not college. Every day in the league you have to come to work. No matter who they've got out there, you have to come to work," Jones said. "There are guys out here working for jobs. As long as you carry yourself and approach it like that, you'll be all right. Dre has the utmost side to him. Just keep working. Forget about the last game because it takes one play for everybody to forget about it. If he picked one off in the end zone or something goes in the opposite direction, everybody would have forgotten about it. I just told him to keep playing. You can't do anything about it. Just get better."
Hall's advice is pretty basic: Forget it.
"There will be more advice given in the next few days and obviously throughout the season. It's one of those things you have to learn from," Hall said. "It's like the game in '07; it's one of those things that you feel terrible. It definitely sucks for the next few days. But you have to get over it. It's not going to make a difference this week and obviously going into Chicago. You just have to get over it, as hard as it's going to be."
Jones says the reason Kirkpatrick can't get down is it's never known when that situation is going to happen again and he'll have to play.
"There is going to be one point in the season we'll have to count on Dre, so hopefully he keeps carrying it and practicing the way he's practicing and it will turn over in a game for him," Jones said. "It will slow down a lot. I know it was going pretty fast for him this week, but once he gets the reps it will all slow down for him. I think he'll be great."
SNAP DECISION: According to NFL stats, fullbacks Orson Charles and John Conner played a total of six snaps Saturday night. Not much to go on to cut guys. Look for more regular formations Thursday night against the Colts.
"We weren't in that personnel grouping very often, but we'll try to get more this week and try to make a good decision," offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said Monday. "Get more in practice and in the game."
CUTS: The Bengals have to cut six players by 4 p.m. Tuesday. But they may be able to deal with most of them through injury lists. Linebackers Brandon Joiner (knee) and Sean Porter (shoulder) could be headed to season-ending injured reserve. Fullback Chris Pressley (knee), running back Bernard Scott (knee) and quarterback Zac Robinson (elbow) are eligible for the physically unable to perform list (PUP) because they have yet to practice. They won't be able to practice until the seventh week of the regular season while on PUP.
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» Bengals slot receiver Andrew Hawkins is walking around without a boot or cast on his injured ankle and he has started working with chief of rehab Nick Cosgray.
While he's still looking at a trip to the injured reserve-recall that would take him out of first half of the season, Hawkins is encouraged because the ankle looks like it's ahead of schedule.
"It seems to be," Hawkins said Monday before the Bengals underwent a walk through inside Paul Brown Stadium. "It's early in the process, but I'm just pleased to be out of the cast and working with Nick. He's really good with this stuff. It feels better and I'm working on strengthening it and the mobility."
» Left tackle Andrew Whitworth has no timetable for his return as he continues to rehab the knee he had surgically-repaired back in February. Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said in his Monday news conference that he has confidence Whitworth can be ready for the Sept. 8 opener in Chicago.
It sounded like he won't play in Thursday's 7 p.m. preseason finale at Paul Brown Stadium against the Colts (11:35 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12), meaning he'd go into Chicago with no preseason snaps.
"It's not a great scenario, but it's the scenario we're in," Whitworth said. "I've played a lot of football and the truth is the game I play is more about studying people, knowing the ins and outs and playing technically sound. Every single week I'm a guy that prepares totally different for a team. That's really the issue.
"I'm not some rookie who sprained his ankle and I'm back the next game. I'm an older player that's got an injury. I'm going to get it ready the best I can and every one that knows me knows I'm going to do everything possible to be back as fast as possible."
With players taking the field in T-shirts and shorts, it was unclear who was back from the injured list. Whitworth was on the field and Lewis said that right tackle Andre Smith looks OK. It's believed he won't play or practice until next week after tweaking his knee Saturday night.