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Dre Kirkpatrick says he's earned starting role; Darqueze Dennard ready to grab it

Dre Kirkpatrick thinks Terence Newman's vacated job is his. Darqueze Dennard is ready to prove otherwise.

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The Bengals secondary will look mostly the same in 2015, except for one starting cornerback spot.

With Terence Newman now in Minnesota, gone are his 31 starts over the past three seasons. In his place, a pair of young players will be expected to replace the 13-year veteran. Dre Kirkpatrick, entering his fourth NFL season, will be the first in line to replace him.

After all, he's got starting experience under his belt, not to mention 35 career games he's played in. In fact, Dre thinks he's already won the starting spot:

"I think I already have a job," Kirkpatrick said on Monday, via the A.P.'s Joe Kay. "I've worked my butt off. They see it. And they see the growth in me, the maturity level in me now. I just have to say that I deserve it and it's finally time that it's come."

Darqueze Dennard is ready to prove otherwise. The 24th-overall pick of last year's NFL draft, Dennard played sparingly as a rookie, but still thinks he can win a starting spot.

"I think everybody realized this is an opportunity," Dennard said. "Everybody has kicked it up a notch and started going harder in the offseason workouts knowing that opportunity is there and trying to go grab it."

Those two will likely battle for the third corner spot next to Leon Hall and Adam Jones, assuming the Bengals keep their nickel-heavy defense in 2016. Even though Dennard played just 77 snaps in 14 games last season, I believe the coaches will give both of them a good shot at winning the job.

After all, Marvin Lewis called Dennard, "the best rookie corner I've ever seen" last year. His public praise for Kirkpatrick has never been remotely that strong.