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Dre Kirkpatrick blossoming into playmaking corner Bengals hoped he’d be

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Cynics remain, but the cornerback has been remarkable throughout 2016.

Cincinnati Bengals v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Bengals might just have a top one-two punch at the cornerback position, thanks to improvements from Dre Kirkpatrick.

Kirkpatrick, two games into his second season as a starter, has looked fantastic in each of the Bengals’ first two games. The cornerback has tallied three tackles, three pass deflections and an interception in his first two games, effectively helping his team lock down the Jets’ wide receiver duo of Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, as well as assisting his team in shutting down superstar Steelers receiver Antonio Brown.

The corner wasn’t perfect in Week 1, surrendering a 14-yard pass interference penalty and giving up a touchdown to the aforementioned Decker — though it’s worth noting Kirkpatrick’s coverage couldn’t have been much better on the play. That said, the corner battled back to deflect a touchdown pass away from Marshall, saving his team seven points.

In Week 2, the fifth-year corner was even better. Kirkpatrick was only targeted three times all game long, tallying two pass deflections and an interception with zero catches allowed. For all intents and purposes, the corner’s performance was essentially the NFL cornerback equivalent of a pitcher having a perfect game. Kirkpatrick held down the left side of the defense, and he did not allow a catch throughout the entire game. If the defensive back could’ve picked off a potential interception which bounced out of his hands, that would’ve been icing on the cake which was one of the best performances — if not the best — by an NFL corner in the first two weeks of the 2016 season. But regardless, Kirkpatrick managed to break up a deep pass intended for Sammie Coates, who torched Darqueze Dennard and Shawn Williams on two catches, gaining 97 yards in the process.

Brown rarely lined up across Kirkpatrick on Sunday, if at all, and for good reason. The former first-round pick has developed into one of the most physical corners in the NFL. Opposing offensive coordinators tried to pick on the corner last season, but this year, things are clearly different. Kirkpatrick has earned his respect, and until he proves otherwise, it’s time to accept the fact that he is finally the playmaker the Bengals had been looking for when they selected him with the 17th pick of the 2012 Draft.

Has Kirkpatrick sold you yet? If not, what more are you hoping to see as Week 3 gets underway.