The Cincinnati Bengals' Next Course of Action After Dre Kirkpatrick Injury
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Tuesday night, it was revealed that Cincinnati Bengals rookie cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick suffered a pre-training camp leg injury that should have him missing at least the first month of practices, according to Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com
The injury, which has been reported by NFL.com as a broken bone near the knee area, won't be truly made public until the Bengals have their physicals on Thursday. Regardless of its severity, it's clear that Kirkpatrick will miss a significant portion of his first-ever NFL training camp, and that the Bengals' cornerback battle just got an influx of additional urgency.
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As a result, the Bengals might have to put five or more cornerbacks on their 53-man roster (they had four last season). Kirkpatrick's injury doesn't seem severe enough to limit him once the regular season starts, so there's little reason to put him on injured reserve prior to Week 1 and there's zero chance they'd take the gamble of putting him on waivers prior to him landing on the practice squad.
The injury, however, does inhibit Kirkpatrick's ongoing attempt to transition from the man coverage he played in college to the off-coverage Bengals' scheme. Hobson noted that Kirkpatrick struggled some in minicamp and OTAs, and missing a month of training camp will certainly not help his development.
Instead, the Bengals will have to rely on the crew of more experienced cornerbacks to emerge as playmakers, while Kirkpatrick continues to heal as well as learn the defense.
Leon Hall has yet to be medically cleared to practice after tearing his Achilles' tendon last year but his recovery has been going well and there's still a chance he could be ready to participate in Friday's opening practice.
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Adam Jones and Nate Clements both missed time during OTAs and minicamp with minor injuries but should be fine for training camp. Free-agent acquisitions Terence Newman and Jason Allen are certainly in the mix to win a starting job, and Brandon Ghee and Shaun Prater will also fight to retain a roster spot.
If the Bengals need to use an additional roster spot at corner thanks to Kirkpatrick's injury, that could cost them elsewhere. They could carry one fewer receiver or defensive lineman in order to preserve Kirkpatrick's roster spot, even if his playing time is limited this year.
As such, the Bengals will have a difficult decision to make regarding which position will have slightly less depth.
The Bengals were hoping that Kirkpatrick could be the pitch-perfect replacement for Johnathan Joseph, who departed last offseason in free agency to join the Houston Texans. Kirkpatrick may ultimately become that type of player, but this injury is going to make it difficult for him to do so in his rookie season.
Now the starting cornerback battle likely involves the veteran players on the roster—most of whom, by the way, are former first-round draft picks themselves. Luckily, the Bengals have a good deal of depth at the cornerback position, but it's never enjoyable when a first-round pick can't make a major contribution in his first season.
(Update: NFL Network is now reporting that Kirkpatrick's recovery will take six weeks).
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