Dre Kirkpatrick is gearing up for big things in 2015. He has his sights set on a starting role with the Bengals, which is something he's been working toward since being selected in the first round of the 2012 draft. With Terrance Newman now gone for the Minnesota Vikings and Reggie Nelson and Adam Jones nearing the later stages of their NFL careers, 2015 looks to be Kirkpatrick's first chance to earn a starting role with the Bengals.
And, after three years on the Bengals, Kirkpatrick's expectations are set high, "As far as the starting role is concerned it's not a question. I know it's mine," Kirkpatrick told us last week. So what has Kirkpatrick been up to since the Bengals ended their 2014 season?
"I am a low key guy. The offseason this year for me has been about dialing into the vision of how I see the season unfolding," Kirkpatrick said. "I spent a tremendous amount of time back home in Alabama spending time with my son and my family."
Following the end of the season, Kirkpatrick took a month off to let his body settle and rest from the season. Then, after that month, the work began in preparing for the 2015 season. To start up his training, Kirkpatrick headed down to his alma mater, University of Alabama.
"I eat, breathe, sleep football down there with those guys, not to mention the mentor factor really inspires me to be a better pro," Kirkpatrick said. "The younger college guys look up to us as players that have gone through the process and are making an impact. It gives me just as much motivation as they get from the pros that come back to UA."
Kirkpatrick is using that experience not only to grow as a player, but as a leader on the team, too. "This offseason for me was all about really focusing in on expectations I have for myself and how I want to insert myself as a leader on the team," he said. "I personally have extremely high expectations set for myself coming into this year."
In 2014, Kirkpatrick had 20 tackles, seven passes defended and three interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Those three interceptions tied for second-most on the team, behind only Reggie Nelson and tied with Adam Jones and George Iloka. What makes those three interceptions stick out is the amount of playing time Kirkpatrick was given to produce those results. Comparatively, Iloka played on 99.3% of the Bengals' 2014 defensive snaps, Nelson 97.9%, and Jones 69.2%, Kirkpatrick only played in 21.3% of defensive snaps throughout the 2014 season.
The Bengals' trust in Kirkpatrick was solidified this offseason when Kirkpatrick experienced the highlight of his offseason. "The highlight of all highlights is the Bengals picking up my 5th year which just allows me to continue my dream," Kirkpatrick said.
And as the 2015 season approaches, Kirkpatrick will seek to further live out his dream and snag the starting role he's been working toward the past three seasons.