Top-Five Bengals Players With The Most To Prove: Number Two

Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE

Counting down the top-five players with the most to prove in 2013. We continue with number two.

We're fairly certain that you'll understand the obviousness of Kirkpatrick's inclusion. After being selected in the first round during the 2012 NFL draft and suffering a problematic knee injury prior to training camp, Kirkpatrick's participation was limited to 43 defensive snaps. After missing training camp, the preseason and the first seven games of the regular season, Kirkpatrick finally made his debut against the Denver Broncos on November 4. One week later he made his debut on defense against the New York Giants.

Eventually Kirkpatrick's knee turned problematic again, along with a concussion, which placed him on Injured Reserve on Christmas. What's that under the Christmas tree? It's the IR, son. His stat line ended with two tackles on defense and two on special teams.

Call it a red-shirt year (college reference, not Star Trek).

Another offseason procedure will limit him offseason work during OTAs already placing him behind those on the roster, but Kirkpatrick figures to be ready for training camp this year. And the Bengals are counting on him, but with limited forecasted opportunities. Unlike 2012, Hall comes into this season completely healthy. Even Adam Jones is feeling as healthy as he's felt for some time. Terence Newman returns after signing a two-year deal in April. We're not worried about depth. This is on Kirkpatrick, who will have to fight for playing time.

However Kirkpatrick has to prove himself first. He won't surpass Hall on the depth chart any time soon. Jones and Newman have proven themselves capable, but hardly with names etched in slabs of concrete. And Cincinnati needs Kirkpatrick on the field for experience. Eventually Terence Newman will retire. Adam Jones is a durability risk and there will be a day that Kirkpatrick has to answer, can he start in the NFL and sustain reliable production?

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