Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick is itching to get on the field. As a former first-rounder, who is riding pine deep into his third season, while expecting to be a significant NFL contributor, it makes sense.
Yet, he's not receiving much playing time to contribute on Paul Guenther's 30th-ranked defense. OK, simplification? The passing defense is ranked 23rd with 258.4 yards passing allowed per game. On the other hand, Cincinnati's defense is ranked in the top-five with nine interceptions, helping lower the passer rating by opposing quarterbacks to a league-low 73.0. Kirkpatrick has played 37 snaps on defense this year, but only 13 since the team's week four bye.
"Coach [Marvin Lewis] knows I'm ready. I work hard every day," Kirkpatrick said in a story by ESPN. "It's a mental thing when it comes to that. Sitting back, just preparing. Trying to be ready for the game. Coach knows I'm ready. I'm ready. I just have to continue to be patient. Hopefully when my time comes I go out there and do what I have to do."
After a problematic knee injury in 2012, the former first-rounder has received inconsistent playing time. He's participated in 26 of 40 games, and of those games, 22 featured a play or two on defense. A bulk of his playing time, thus far, came last year when Leon Hall suffered a torn Achilles against the Detroit Lions. The secondary has remained relatively healthy this season. And that includes Kirkpatrick, who has only missed two games since 2013 while becoming one of the team's best gunners on punt coverage.
Though on defense, where the money is made and the reputations are built, Kirkpatrick has defended against 50 passes in his career. Only 31 have resulted in a completion (62 percent), for 393 yards passing -- 147 yards after the catch (including a 74-yarder given up to Josh Gordon). Kirkpatrick has also allowed three touchdowns but intercepted three passes for an opposing quarterback rating of 81.5 in his career.
Until he gets more playing time, he continues to approach his situation with patience.
"I just continue to learn from those guys," Kirkpatrick said. "It's always going to be frustrating when you want to play. I've never really had to just sit. But it's a respect thing, also. 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."