It's been a rough transition for Dre Kirkpatrick to the NFL. After missing nearly his entire rookie year due to a knee injury and concussions, Kirkpatrick played in 14 games (including playoffs) in 2014. He notched three interceptions to go with 30 tackles and five pass deflections.
Still, he had a -9.8 grade by Pro Football Focus, and his -3.2 pass coverage grade was second only to Rey Maualuga as the worst coverage grade by any Bengals defender. Stricly playing cornerback is something Dre has struggled with to this point in his career.
There's still time for him to improve, but indications in OTAs are he's not improving as much as he should be. If he continues to struggle playing corner this year, it may be time to find another role for him, and safety could be one to consider.
Going back to the 2012 draft process, Kirkpatrick was mentioned as a player who could move to safety at the NFL level if cornerback failed.
It just so happens the Bengals gave Kirk some looks at safety last year. Following their Week 13 win over the Chargers Marvin Lewis revealed the Bengals were giving Kirk reps at safety in a similar role to that of Chris Crocker.
“Early on in the season we were training him as a safety in practice,” Lewis said. “As an emergency safety in practice, but as a corner and he’s learned to play the nickel spot and all of the variations we have in there, which he’s done a very good job of when Chris was out. He’s got to keep doing that because obviously there’s a lot of comfort with Chris having been in the scheme for so long and being so smart as a veteran player. Dre’s got a lot of those things to overcome. It’s nothing to do with ability. It’s just time on task.”
Crocker was used as a safety/slot cornerback, a role he played very well. Perhaps, the Bengals think Dre could be that kind of player if strictly playing at corner doesn't work for him.
If Leon Hall is healthy and ready to start when the regular season opens, that means he, Terence Newman and Adam Jones will likely be ahead of Dre on the depth chart.
Oh, and rookie corner Darqueze Dennard has a had a very strong summer and could pass Dre on the depth chart as well.
If that's the case, getting Kirkpatrick some reps at safety during the preseason to see what he can do there might not be such a bad idea.