After the off-season signings that the Bengals made in Jason Allen and Terence Newman, and re-signing Adam Jones, some questioned whether or not the Bengals would keep the same draft plan and take a CB with one of their first two picks. That question was answered last night when the Bengals took Dre Kirkpatrick with the 17th overall pick, and according to defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, he is a perfect fit in the Bengals defense.
First, Kirkpatrick is the physical ideal for what Zimmer prefers in his cornerbacks.
"(We like tall) guys that can get hands on the receivers at the line of scrimmage and he moves his feet laterally well. He does a great job in bump and run. The taller corners have an advantage when they're going down the field because the ball has to go over the top of outstretched arms. If they do a good job at the line of scrimmage they have a great advantage down the field."
Kirkpatrick is the tallest CB on the roster at 6-1, but he is also the lightest at 185 pounds. If you watched Kirkpatrick at all last year at Alabama, you quickly see that he plays much heavier than he is and is very physical in man coverage and bump and run. His weight will not be an issue, but his height is the difference maker that Zimmer sees as his biggest advantage. It is very difficult to throw a pass to a receiver who has his outstretched arms in the way, and Kirkpatrick has the advantage against many WRs in downfield routes.
Second, Zimmer knows that Kirkpatrick has the necessary level of intelligence to succeed in an NFL defense.
"He's been coached hard at Alabama and he's coming from the national championship team, so we really like the pedigree," Zimmer said.
There is a reason that there have been four Alabama defensive players taken in the first 35 picks of the draft: they are all smart, athletic, physical, and, most importantly, well-coached. Alabama had the best defense in the NCAA last year, and KIrkpatrick was a significant part of that defense where he consistently shut down the best WRs the SEC had to offer. Not only this, but Alabama HC Nick Saban is known for running a complicated defense, and Zimmer even notes that it is more difficult to grasp than his own defense.
"He won't have any problem with catching on to our system. They're more complicated than we are. They make a lot more checks off backfield sets and different formations and different calls at the line of scrimmage. I don't like mistakes and keep it simple."
If this is true, depending on the health of Leon Hall, Kirkpatrick could start from day one and have an immediate impact on the Bengals defense. Add to this the fact that Kirkpatrick is surrounded by veterans who are willing to teach and mentor him, he should have a very short and easy transition from college to the pros. On this point, Zimmer notes,
"Not only do they [Clements and Newman] care about the guys on our team, they care about the younger players coming up."
A defense that is coached by Mike Zimmer, veterans who care enough to teach and help out rookies, and being surrounded by incredible talent on the no. 7 ranked defense in the NFL will give Kirkpatrick every opportunity to succeed at the next level. Kirkpatrick's talent and athleticism certainly fill a void left by the departure of Jonathon Joseph last off-season, and in a secondary that needs an injection of youth and intensity, Kirkpatrick fits perfectly in the Bengals secondary.
Less than 24 hours after being drated, Kirkpatrick is already starting to get used to being a Bengal:
Who dey lol
I think "Swagga" will be just fine in the Queen City.