Dre Kirkpatrick could become a starter at cornerback for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2013.
I'm going to start. That's my goal. That what I believe and that's what I stand behind. I know I can. I have to be. It's the position I play; confidence never hurt anybody.
Obviously, Kirkpatrick's convictions about starting in 2013 are very strong. But, will he actually get the chance to start opposite Leon Hall?
Chances are, he will.
Many fans have given up on the hope that Kirkpatrick will be the next great corner for the Bengals organization. He did struggle through injuries throughout his rookie season and only played a handful of snaps on defense.
This has allowed for speculation of a potential move to the safety position for Kirkpatrick—a move that would be completely unfounded.
Kirkpatrick does not have the size to play at the safety position and would need to bulk up to do so. This would potentially decrease his ability to rotate his hips fluidly and could decrease his straight-line speed.
Drafted in the first round of 2012 as a cornerback, Kirkpatrick will continue to play at that position in the NFL.
Last year, Kirkpatrick saw limited action at corner against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 11 and did not disappoint. He was able to stay in tight coverage throughout his time on the field. Kirkpatrick did not record any passes defensed but was constantly seen on the hip of the intended wide receiver.
Not bad for a player who took the field with a bone spur in his knee—something he had surgically corrected over the offseason.
Let's take a look at one of Kirpatrick's snaps against the Chiefs to break down exactly how fundamentally sound he is at the cornerback position.
In this play, Kirkpatrick is lined up outside on Chiefs wide receiver Terrance Copper. Dre is in man coverage without safety help over the top as safety Chris Crocker lines up in man coverage in the slot. Nate Clements is playing center field but is not close enough to the outside to provide help for Kirkpatrick.
Before the play begins, Kirkpatrick closes in toward the line of scrimmage in press coverage.
After the snap, Kirkpatrick backpedals briefly until he notices Copper begin to take off down the sideline. Dre rotates his hips nicely to stay in position with the streaking receiver.
Kirkpatrick has great burst and immediately gets up to full speed as he stays on the hip of Copper down the sideline. Clements is out of position, and quarterback Brady Quinn notices this and eyes up Copper as his target.
Quinn throws in the direction of Copper with Clements still out of position. Kirkpatrick maintains his speed and stays on the hip of the receiver while looking back to find the ball in the air.
Now that Kirkpatrick knows the ball is headed his way, he maintains his speed to keep up with the speedy receiver. With the ball descending, he is in perfect position to make a play.
It turns out that the ball is slightly overthrown and results in an incomplete pass. However, notice Kirkpatrick's position in relation to the receiver. The ball would have to have been thrown with such precision for even a glimmer of a chance to complete the pass against him.
Yes, this is only one example of Kirkpatrick's ability at the corner position, but he makes an excellent case for himself to become a starter in his second season.
With his knee now cleaned up and training camp just ahead, he will have a great shot to compete with Terence Newman for the second cornerback spot opposite Hall.
If Kirkpatrick can show these same flashes of productivity throughout training camp, he will have a great chance to become a Week 1 starter for the Bengals in 2013.
All screen shots courtesy of NFL Game Rewind.