Dre Kirkpatrick is embarking on what many hope will be a breakout year for the former first round pick. For three years, Kirkpatrick watched and learned from his teammates -- other first round draft picks -- Terrance Newman, Adam Jones and Leon Hall.
Now, with Newman in Minnesota and Hall facing the back-end of his career, Kirkpatrick is set to become one of the Bengals starting cornerbacks this year, opposite Jones. And, the expectations are high. It's a long-awaited opportunity, but one Kirkpatrick knew this offseason he had earned. Now, with just days until the Bengals take on the Raiders in Oakland, Kirkpatrick is preparing for the challenge ahead.
"At the end of the day, it's still football," Kirkpatrick said regarding the Bengals opening game on the road in Oakland. "It's not going to be perfect but we just gotta take a deep breath, and go over the corrections we're going to make at halftime with the coaches and go out there and finish the game strong."
Oakland isn't an easy place to play. In fact, the Bengals have never won in Oakland. But, Kirkpatrick is used to going into stadiums with intense fan bases and crazy atmospheres.
"I played in the SEC," Kirkpatrick reminded reporters this week. "LSU is crazy, Auburn is crazy, Florida is crazy, so every week was mayhem, every week was chaotic. So, it kind of prepared me for this stage. But it's a different feeling because I'm starting in the NFL now and the expectation is going to be a little bit different. I be ready."
When Kirkpatrick and the Bengals take the field this year, the goal is come out strong and prove they're a top team in the NFL.
"We're tired of being overlooked, just want to let everyone know not by words, just by actions that we here to stay," Kirkpatrick said. "We want to be something to be reckoned with this year and we're a unit, group. Everyone know each other and I feel we're going to go out there and we going to play well."