Impending Cincinnati Bengals free agent Dre Kirkpatrick is gearing up for what’s sure to be an interesting next month. Kirkpatrick’s rookie contract ends when the new league year begins on March 9 and he’s sure to sign a significant contract for the 2017 season and beyond. That may keep him in Cincinnati, but, other teams may be interested in pulling him away from the queen City.
Pro Football Focus’ Eliot Crist released his list of the NFL’s best cornerbacks versus various types of routes: slant routes; double-moves; go routes; in routes/out routes; post and corner routes; hitches and comebacks; and crossing routes.
Dre Kirkpatrick was given the highest grade against go routes, which Crist writes means, “[i]n backyard football terms, go deep.” It’s also the route I’d have my top receivers run in Madden ‘97, back when Jeff Blake was torching opposing defenses. In other words, defending the go route doesn’t require a great degree of veteran savvy or refined route-running skills, when compared to the other plays listed.
Here’s what Crist had to say about Dre:
Dre Kirkpatrick defended the go route as well as one can possibly do it in 2016. He was targeted nine times on such routes without allowing a catch, and he intercepted two passes (tied for most in NFL). He had the lowest QB rating against, with a 0.0, 39.6 points lower than if a QB just threw an incomplete pass every time. Kirkpatrick was used in multiple coverages when stopping the go route: five times he was in man coverage, either cover-1 or cover-2 man, and four times in zone, twice in cover-6, once in cover-4, and once in cover-3. Both of Kirkpatrick’s interceptions came in zone coverage, while in man he broke up one of five passes with another being incomplete due to an underthrow.
Now sure, that’s high praise. I mean, a QB rating of 0.0 is as good as it gets. And in case you were wondering, yes, one of those interceptions was this beauty against Ben Roethlisberger.
However, Kirkpatrick was not mentioned by Crist for any other kind of route. And Sam Monson didn’t list him among PFF’s top 25 cornerbacks list, which came out in late November, right before Week 12. (On a side note, 38-year-old former Bengals cornerback Terence Newman was fourth overall on that list.)
As John Sheeran puts it, Kirkpatrick has excellent straight line speed and he can accelerate quickly off his back pedal. Plus, his exceptional length (6’2” height, 30 5/8” arm length) allows him to disrupt deeper passes that opposing quarterbacks try to loft over his head (like this one against Roethlisberger). But he isn’t as successful against other kinds of passes, as his overly-aggressive style can backfire on more complicated routes. While Kirkpatrick is nice to have on the Bengals as they play against Roethlisberger, who plays as close to “backyard football” as you’ll find in the NFL, twice per year, he isn’t quite a shutdown corner yet. Hopefully if he remains in Cincinnati he’ll get there, as he’s still only 27. But if he doesn’t happen to get, say, Janoris Jenkins money (he signed a 5-year $62.5 million contract last offseason), it will be because he isn’t a complete corner yet and it’s unclear if he’ll ever be one.