NFL Nation: Dre Kirkpatrick

CINCINNATI -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Cincinnati Bengals' 24-10 victory over the Atlanta Falcons:

Still
Posters for Still: Sitting just inside Devon Still's locker late Sunday afternoon after the win was an orange poster that read: "Be Leah Strong." A fan had requested the poster be brought into the locker room for the defensive tackle who began the season on the practice squad due to a hamstring injury and because of his anxiety over 4-year-old daughter Leah's cancer prognosis. To his surprise, Still had been kept earlier in the day on the active game-day roster. In relief of an injured Brandon Thompson, he had three tackles.

'A good night': When reporters streamed into the Bengals' locker room, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick was among the most jovial players they encountered. The backup defender was shouting at the top of his lungs: "Tonight's gonna be a good night." Those are lyrics from the Black Eyed Peas song "I Gotta Feeling." On special teams, Kirkpatrick played a key role in securing two fourth-quarter punts that were downed inside the Falcons' 4.

Shouting 'Gio!' On one second-quarter play, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton was stuck behind some intense Falcons pressure and needed to get rid of the ball. So he shouted out "Gio!" to running back Giovani Bernard, who had just pulled away from a linebacker he was blocking in pass protection. Bernard said when he heard his name, he instinctively caught Dalton's improvisational screen pass. Bernard ended the broken play with a 46-yard reception.

Football trophy: Bengals rookie Jeremy Hill scored his first career touchdown in the third quarter when he plowed right behind defensive tackle Domata Peko (who was playing fullback) for a 1-yard score. Hill said he has the perfect place for the ball which he held on to -- his mom's mantel in New Orleans. She was in attendance Sunday. "I'll probably lose it or my dog will probably chew it up," Hill said, laughing.

Bengals Camp Report: Day 14

August, 12, 2014
Aug 12
6:40
PM ET
CINCINNATI -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Cincinnati Bengals training camp:
  • Marvin Jones' broken foot has dominated the headlines in Cincinnati this week. There have been questions about when he will return, how healthy he will return and how the Bengals will get by in his absence. On Tuesday afternoon, they got a bit of an answer to the latter inquiry. One day after the Bengals practiced an hour away at West Carrollton High School just outside Dayton, Ohio, tight end Jermaine Gresham was the star Tuesday. He was used in the seam, he was put into his typical tight end drags, and he even went up for fades in the end zone as part of a goal-line passing play. Unofficially, I recorded him with having six catches during the practice. It's possible he caught one more I didn't see. Following one of the six I observed -- a 15-yard touchdown reception near the right pylon in a red-zone segment -- Gresham got immediate kudos from his quarterback, Andy Dalton. "I like it, Jermaine!" Dalton shouted before jogging over and giving the tight end a high five.
  • That touchdown completion wasn't the only pass caught from Dalton's right hand. In all, the starting signal-caller was 23-for-34 passing in one of his most prolific passing practices of training camp. The loss of Jason Campbell to an elbow injury (he still isn't yet practicing) in the preseason opener last Thursday may have had a slight impact. While backups Matt Scott and Tyler Wilson still got their practice reps in, Dalton seemed to be used a little more than he has been in practices before Campbell's injury. Another part of Dalton's extended work had to do with the fact the Bengals were in full pads for only the fourth time this camp. They hadn't worn the full attire since the Saturday before last.
  • Among the work the Bengals got in offensively and defensively were situational drills that pertained to third downs, no-huddle, red zone and goal-line opportunities. The offense owned certain situations. The defense won its share of battles, too. It seemed like the defense was best in one of the red-zone situations, while the offense got into a rhythm on third downs. One of the highlights of the day came when cornerback Leon Hall slipped underneath A.J. Green in a 7-on-7 drill and jumped right in front of a Dalton pass, making a one-handed grab to intercept it. Dalton's eyes appeared to follow Green throughout the route, telegraphing his pass to the defensive player. It was Dalton's worst passing read of camp to this point. After the play, Hall was seen shaking his hand. He may have had difficulty handling the velocity of the short pass. Dalton got his payback, connecting perfectly with Green on two well-placed balls his next two tries. Another pass later in the practice was thrown just ahead of Hall, who couldn't catch receiver Dane Sanzenbacher for a would-be touchdown. The wideout had a step on Hall.
  • Tuesday's injury update: Domata Peko (concussion), Wallace Gilberry (leg) and Andre Smith (concussion) all returned from injuries but were limited. None participated in 11-on-11 drills. Dre Kirkpatrick (hip), Geno Atkins (knee), Brandon Thompson (illness), Sean Porter (knee), Campbell (elbow), AJ McCarron (shoulder) and Jones (foot) didn't practice. Kirkpatrick told me he expects to play Saturday against the Jets. At the end of Tuesday's practice, offensive tackle Marshall Newhouse was carted off. Coach Marvin Lewis wasn't immediately sure what happened.
  • Up next: The Bengals are back on the practice fields Wednesday for a 3 p.m. ET practice. It will be their penultimate open session for the season.

Bengals Camp Report: Day 7

July, 31, 2014
Jul 31
6:30
PM ET
CINCINNATI -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Cincinnati Bengals training camp:
  • As compelling, edge-of-your seat excitement goes, Thursday's practice, from an observer's standpoint, ranked somewhere around a 3 on a 0-to-10 scale. I'm sure it's possible for coaches and players to view it much differently. During what was a special teams-heavy workout, there were very few 11-on-11 drills that featured as much worth noting as there had been in days past. When the Bengals did get into offense vs. defense action, they did so at a rather conservative pace. There was no hitting (players were in shorts and shoulder pads for the second straight day), and plays were run at a significantly slower speed than how they'll be executed in games. We ought to point out that while the players might not have been running at the same speed they soon will be, they still got into a bit of a hurry-up pace as coaches had them go through a few two-minute-drill plays.
  • To be sure, a day like Thursday had probably long been on the schedule as the Bengals try to mix in light, low-speed days with their hit-filled afternoons. It couldn't have come at a better time, too. Cincinnati is dealing with a couple of camp injuries, including four players sidelined with head issues. Linebackers J.K. Schaffer and Jayson DiManche, offensive tackle Andre Smith and tight end Kevin Brock remained on concussion protocol.
  • One day after receiving medical clearance to practice again, Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins was back on the sidelines. He didn't participate in any of Wednesday's team drills, only really taking part in the position-specific exercises that came before practice. Coach Marvin Lewis said Wednesday that Atkins wouldn't be rushed back into the line rotation. Coaches and trainers want to ease him back into the mix. When I asked defensive coordinator Paul Guenther after practice about Atkins, he indicated there wasn't anything to worry about. The day off was part of the slow process of getting Atkins back onto the field fully, he said.
  • To close out the day's injury report, it's worth noting that both Mike Pollak and Clint Boling took a day off. They had been trading off days at left guard until this point. In their place, undrafted free agent Trey Hopkins got repetitions at the position. Hopkins is beginning to look like the undrafted free agent who stands the best chance at making the 53-man roster. While Pollak and Boling didn't even dress, defensive tackle Domata Peko and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick did. Both participated fully in the practice after not working out Wednesday. Kirkpatrick hadn't practiced since Saturday.
  • As mentioned before, Day 7 was all about special teams. In particular, the Bengals were working on their kickoff coverage and kickoff returns. Routine deep kicks, squib kicks and onside kicks were part of what they practiced. After the bulk of the kickoff activities, in an 11-on-11, quarterback Andy Dalton was nearly perfect, going 9-for-10. His lone incompletion came when defensive end Robert Geathers broke up a pass at the line of scrimmage. Dalton might have had another incompletion had safety George Iloka been able to sprint at game speed. Iloka had closed on tight end Tyler Eifert, who barely caught a pass in the seam before Iloka pulled up. Later in that drill, on the very last play, came the highlight of the day. Seventh-round receiver James Wright, who didn't catch a pass last season at LSU, caught a key first-down pass on a third-and-5 play. A.J. Green gave him a high-five after the reception.
  • Up next: The Bengals won't practice until 6 p.m. Friday, in a workout that's open to the public.

Bengals Camp Report: Day 4

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
6:35
PM ET
CINCINNATI -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Cincinnati Bengals training camp:
  • The most anticipated activity of the weekend, Sunday's previously scheduled Oklahoma drill, was scrapped at the last minute by head coach Marvin Lewis, in part due to an overabundance of caution. "We know who 35-40 of our players are going to be," he said to reporters after Sunday's practice. "Let's make sure those 35 or 40, we give them every opportunity to get to Baltimore in one piece." The Bengals open the regular season at the Ravens on Sept. 7. On Saturday, a few players and coaches expressed mixed feelings about the physically demanding, collision-focused drill. Linebacker Rey Maualuga said he wasn't sure what the exercise had to do with football. Lewis backed his sentiments slightly, adding Sunday afternoon that the Bengals "got the same thing out of" the Oklahoma-less practice.
  • Rookie running back Jeremy Hill was among the players who did wish to participate in the drill. He said he and some of his offensive teammates were getting tired of some of the trash talking their defensive counterparts were doing. "Those guys have been yapping all week," Hill said. "But that bravado is what allows them to play better. I'm glad we have a defense that plays with swagger and plays fast." Instead of mixing in the Oklahoma drills, the Bengals incorporated a few half-line and blitz pickup/receiver-blocking exercises that allowed the fully padded players to get some contact. On the blitz pickup drills Hill was part of, he won both times he was paired with linebacker Vincent Rey. Those were two noteworthy plays in an afternoon that also saw him run aggressively as he slipped in and out of holes on some of the first inside runs the Bengals have worked on in this training camp.
  • Another running back, Rex Burkhead, had what I'd consider the feel-good play of the day. After getting knocked down during one of the aforementioned interior 11-on-11 runs and getting trapped underneath the dogpile, he got right up, bounced outside and sprinted another 20 yards downfield. It was the type of hustle play that can turn heads and earn the kind of brownie points a player on the fringe of the 53-man roster needs. You can read more about Burkhead's knack for finishing practice plays off here.
  • The actual play of the day came late in the practice when backup cornerback R.J. Stanford disrupted what looked like a sure long first-down catch for receiver Cobi Hamilton. On the play, quarterback Andy Dalton waited for Hamilton to race past Stanford on the post route and lobbed a deep pass over the middle that had the right amount of air underneath it. As Hamilton got in position to catch it, Stanford jumped and swung his arm at the last moment, forcing a break-up as Hamilton hit the turf without what previously looked like an easy reception.
  • Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick was the only addition to Cincinnati's group of injured. He didn't participate in the practice after coming out in the middle of Saturday's session due to an apparent hamstring injury. It's not expected to be a serious ailment that will keep him out for too long. Corner Leon Hall was back into the mix in most coverage drills as fellow veteran Terence Newman received a day off from that part of the practice. The Bengals are slowly trying to ease Hall back into full action after his Achilles tear last year. Rookie Darqueze Dennard has benefited from more reps as a result.
CINCINNATI -- The mandatory minicamp portion of the Cincinnati Bengals' offseason has come to an end, meaning summer is well within view.

Following three voluntary organized team activity practices next week, the Bengals are off until July 24, when they take to Paul Brown Stadium's practice fields for the start of training camp. The only day next week media are permitted to watch the team practice is Monday. After that day, we won't see all 90 players on a field together until training camp.

That makes Thursday's final minicamp practice an important last step in springtime football.

Here are a few brief observations from the workout:
  • As they continue experimenting with offense and defense combinations, the Bengals shuffled players around all practice. Linemen who had been getting some run with the second- and third-team units were practicing with the first-teamers. The same went for reserve running backs and receivers, who were taking handoffs and catching passes from starting quarterback Andy Dalton. It was the coaches' chance to see which backup players could shine with the first-teamers, and which starters could play alongside which backups. It's all part of the tinkering that goes on in June.
  • That said, undrafted free agent Trey Hopkins was among those backup players who got some playing time with the first-team offense. The offensive lineman played both left tackle and left guard during the practice. Running backs Cedric Peerman, Rex Burkhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis also were among those who played with the first-team units. Since rookie Jeremy Hill was drafted, Green-Ellis has slid from running with the first team alongside Giovani Bernard, to the lower quadrant of the backfield depth chart. On defense, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick was one of the backups who mixed in with the first-teamers on both sides of the ball.
  • Like we mentioned Wednesday, rookie quarterback AJ McCarron has been cleared to throw after dealing with "arm tightness" during the first two weeks of OTAs. He threw a little bit more and threw deeper passes Thursday. One of his best of the day was about a 15-yard comeback route to Cobi Hamilton, who broke sharply away from his defender thanks to a quick cut. McCarron also was picked off late in the practice when the Bengals were going through a two-minute drill. Safety Shawn Williams jumped a short throw.
  • Finally, after missing Wednesday's practice, Pro Bowl left tackle Andrew Whitworth was back Thursday, getting his normal reps.
CINCINNATI -- When the Bengals made cornerback Darqueze Dennard their first-round pick earlier this month, they did so with their immediate future in mind.

Terence Newman is 35 and is scheduled to hit free agency next spring. Adam Jones isn't too far behind him. Leon Hall is turning 30 at the end of year and is coming off his second major injury in three seasons. As much as the Bengals respect and appreciate what the trio has accomplished in recent years, they know it's time to start preparing for life after them.

[+] EnlargeDarqueze Dennard
AP Photo/Al BehrmanDarqueze Dennard (left) knows that a he can learn a lot from veteran players like Terence Newman.
So Dennard, a 22-year-old who was named college football's top defensive back last year, was added to the mix when the Bengals' pick rolled around at No. 24.

The rookie understands his place in the team's cornerback hierarchy and knows he may not see much playing time defensively this fall. He's OK with that, though, because he believes his time will come soon enough.

"I'm just waiting on my moment," Dennard said earlier this week following the Bengals' first organized team activity practice.

He's also waiting on something else: a contract. The Bengals have already signed their other seven draft picks, but they haven't yet inked Dennard to his deal. Despite the delay in getting him paid, Dennard has been participating as the Bengals go through their first series of full-team offseason practices. He said Tuesday that he wasn't worried about not having a contract, but remains hopeful that an agreement will be made soon.

As far as his place in the Bengals' cornerback rotation, for now, Dennard is trying to learn from the likes of Newman, Jones, Hall and third-year cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick.

"Those guys have been playing a long time in the NFL and have a lot of games under their belt," Dennard said. "I'm here to play. That's my mindset -- to get on the field -- but being under the tutelage of them is going to help me, as well. A lot of guys don't have the same chance I have. Those veteran guys have played a lot of games and have done great things on the football field. I have them and I'm going to use them."

Dennard added that he is already peppering the vets with questions about playing the position and being a professional player, in general. He wants to be a pest to them and anyone else who's willing to help him navigate this next stage of his development.

"I'm probably going to get on their nerves by asking them so many questions, but I'm going to use that to better me as a player and a person," Dennard said. "Hopefully I'll have the same kind of career as them."

His career could begin this season by getting the majority of his playing time on special teams. Possible injuries aside, for now, the depth ahead of him at corner will make it difficult for him to get on the field. Newman and Jones opened this week's OTAs as the starting boundary cornerbacks. Kirkpatrick got time with the second-team corners alongside Chris Lewis-Harris, a third-year corner who was active for six games last season. In time, the expectation is that Dennard and Kirkpatrick will be the top options at the two boundary spots.

Kirkpatrick still has to prove he's starting material. As well as he played at times filling in for an injured Newman last season, Kirkpatrick still gave up his share of touchdown passes and got burned on occasion in coverage.

Dennard seldom got burned at Michigan State. He held opposing receivers to just 5.78 yards per catch, the lowest figure for a defensive back during the entire BCS era. He and the rest of the Spartans' defensive backfield considered themselves so effective against the pass that he nicknamed the group "No Fly Zone" last summer.

Part of what made Michigan State's "No Fly Zone" live up to Dennard's nickname was the intense nature of his single-coverage play on opposing receivers. He blanketed pass-catchers so well in college the Bengals believed he needed to be in their defense.

Dennard's former college teammate, current Spartan safety Kurtis Drummond, said Dennard's coverage was a credit to his preparation.

"He works on it. That's not something he just throws himself in," Drummond said. "That's something that he's very prepared to do. Something he takes pride in. He's a competitor and he wants to be the best at whatever he does."
CINCINNATI -- Cocky? Rambunctious? Bad teammate? Locker-room cancer?

The player who stood before media for nearly 15 minutes Wednesday afternoon appeared anything but all of the descriptors listed above.

[+] EnlargeAJ McCarron
Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY SportsThe Bengals will find out sooner rather than later what kind of leader rookie QB AJ McCarron is on the field.
As new Cincinnati Bengals quarterback AJ McCarron held an unofficial introductory news conference Wednesday with reporters as he stood in the shadow of Paul Brown Stadium's South end zone, he didn't offer any overly brash proclamations or guarantees. He didn't threaten to chuck a cameraman into the stands. No teammates, either old or new, were tossed underneath any physical or metaphorical buses.

Instead, he was calm, mostly patient and polite as he answered questions. He even added, in his slight southern Alabama twang, a "no ma'am" as he prefaced one of his responses.

He showed his vulnerability, too, admitting that he was hurt by recent reports that questioned his character.

So who was this guy? Was he the same person who was chided all day Saturday and supposedly blasted all offseason behind the closed doors of several team front offices? On Wednesday, he didn't appear that way.

But remember, looks can sometimes be deceiving.

To hear McCarron and one of his former college teammates tell it, Saturday's reports were a case of mistaken persona. Two of them in particular, one from ESPN insider Adam Schefter and another from NFL Network said officials from multiple teams weren't impressed with McCarron during pre-draft meetings. Some team officials apparently felt he was too cocky and had an ego large enough to fill their entire stadiums.

McCarron, a starter on two national championship teams at Alabama, believes his confidence may have been misinterpreted as cockiness.

"Through my college years I've never been cocky," McCarron said. "I've always given respect to my teammates before myself."

Before we go too much further, let me point out I've done some homework on McCarron since Saturday. I've heard some of the same things Schefter and others did from a few people who were around Alabama's football program on a regular basis. An argument could be made that the claims I heard may have been buffered by the timing of the other remarks about McCarron that had been made earlier in the weekend, but they do come from intelligent people whom I trust.

But perhaps they misread his confidence as cockiness, too? Maybe, maybe not. I can't know for certain until I've spent more time around McCarron myself. One day isn't much of a sample size.

Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick has his share of experiences involving McCarron to rely on though. He's known the quarterback since 2009, the same year they both enrolled at Alabama. The two played three seasons together before Kirkpatrick was drafted by Cincinnati in 2012.

"He's a competitor," Kirkpatrick said. "I watched him our freshman year try to compete for the job. Obviously he didn't get the job. But he always had a great attitude about it."

Kirkpatrick added he felt McCarron outplayed the starting quarterback, recently retired and former Bengal Greg McElroy. The top job was won by the elder McElory, though, because "he had more wisdom," Kirkpatrick said.

"I've seen him get fiery," Kirkpatrick added of McCarron. "I've seen him get mad. Maybe his receivers aren't getting the ball because we're picking the balls off. He gets mad -- he gets onto them. He lets them know by saying like, 'Let's pick it up.' He doesn't like slacking players because he's not going to go out there and be a slacking player."

So the question is: Is it confidence or cockiness that really fuels McCarron? Was it confidence or cockiness that the Bengals saw?

Does it really matter which, though?

Regardless the distinction between the traits, it's clear the Bengals saw something in McCarron that they didn't see in their starting quarterback. Time will ultimately judge whether McCarron is simply confident in his abilities or just overly cocky. There is a hope around the Bengals, though, that with McCarron around, Andy Dalton will eventually develop either of the two characteristics; ones offensive coordinator Hue Jackson believes a signal-caller ought to have.

"A lot of people call me cocky," Jackson said. "I have a lot of confidence, too, and I kind of like that in a guy.

"I kind of like that in a quarterback."

Countdown to combine: Bengals CBs

February, 21, 2014
Feb 21
9:00
AM ET
With the NFL combine this week, we've been taking a look at positions of need and who the Cincinnati Bengals might be looking at during the combine at those positions. We've reached the end and are evaluating the Bengals' most immediate draft concern.

Position of need: Cornerback

Now that players have started arriving at the combine and talking with teams and media, we're wrapping up our combine countdown with the position that ought to garner the most eyeballs from Bengals' decision-makers leading up to the May draft. Much like we've said about the other positions (here's a look at our pre-combine reads on the situations at running back, on the offensive line, defensive line and at quarterback), this draft for Cincinnati is all about backups and reserves. Though there might be some exceptions for prospects who can contribute right away on special teams, the Bengals are in Indianapolis this weekend mostly looking for help behind their starting lineups. The only real casualty to the Bengals' starting rotations on offense and defense could be defensive end Michael Johnson, who will enter free agency March 11.

As for cornerback specifically, the Bengals have a veteran returning group paced by Leon Hall, Adam Jones and Terence Newman. Brandon Ghee also could return in a reserve capacity if he gets re-signed starting next month, allowing him to get paired again with third-year player Dre Kirkpatrick in the back end of the rotation. But with Hall coming off his second major injury in three seasons and having just turned 29, and Jones and Newman both now in their 30s and entering the final years of their contracts, the Bengals have to start preparing for life without them. Kirkpatrick factors into those plans after being drafted in the first round in 2012. With this year's draft class so ripe with good cornerback talent, the Bengals will look at bringing at least one along. For now, it stands to reason that they will use their first-round pick, No. 24 overall, on a corner.

Three players the Bengals might be targeting (all three are expected to attend the combine)

Darqueze Dennard (CB), Michigan State: Dennard has appeared on Bengals mock drafts since early January, most specifically making it on ESPN draft insider Mel Kiper Jr.'s 1.0 and 2.0 mocks. In the days entering the combine, though, Dennard has started climbing in the eyes of most draft experts, including ESPN's Todd McShay. Many seem to believe he won't be available when the Bengals make their pick at 24. Durability could be an issue for Dennard, who had his share of injuries in college. One of the more positive aspects to his play, though, are his instincts and knack for finding the ball. He had 59 tackles and four sacks his senior season.

Lamarcus Joyner (CB), Florida State: At 5-foot-8, Joyner stands a shade shorter than the types of longer and leaner corners the Bengals have brought in over the years, but his versatility in the defensive backfield will make him an attractive target for some team. At FSU, he played the boundary cornerback positions, lined up some in the slot at nickel, and was featured for most of his career at safety. He also appeared on special teams both as a return specialist and tackler on kick coverage. Cut from the same cloth as a player like Jones, Joyner plays with a chip on his shoulder. It's that combination of fearless play and versatility that should make him a serious late-first-round target.

Stan Jean-Baptiste (CB), Nebraska: Likely a second- or third-round talent, Jean-Baptiste ultimately may not end up in the Bengals' draft plans. At 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, he's also a little bigger than the cornerbacks the Bengals have brought in lately, but more important than that, he seems to still have playmaking ability with respect to intercepting passes and creating turnovers. He had four interceptions in 2013. His comparative height and weight advantage can help him when jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage. It also might make some teams think about moving him to safety.

A look at the 16th, 17th pick

February, 5, 2014
Feb 5
11:05
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys will not know until a coin flip at the NFL scouting combine if they or the Baltimore Ravens will pick 16th or 17th in the first round of the May draft.

The only time the Cowboys used the 16th pick in the draft came in 1961 when they selected E.J. Holub in the second round. They have not taken a player with the 17th overall pick since cornerback Kevin Smith in 1992. Before that? In 1990 they took Emmitt Smith, who is now the NFL’s all-time leading rusher.

What type of player has been available at Nos. 16 and 17? Here’s a look at the past 10 years.

2013 – EJ Manuel, Buffalo; Jarvis Jones, Pittsburgh
2012 – Quinton Coples, New York Jets; Dre Kirkpatrick, Cincinnati
2011 – Ryan Kerrigan, Washington; Nate Solder, New England
2010 – Derrick Morgan, Tennessee; Mike Iupati, San Francisco
2009 – Larry English, San Diego; Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay
2008 – Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Arizona; Gosder Cherilus, Detroit
2007 – Justin Harrell, Green Bay; Jarvis Moss, Denver
2006 – Jason Allen, Miami; Chad Greenway, Minnesota
2005 – Travis Johnson, Houston; David Pollack, Cincinnati
2004 – Shawn Andrews, Philadelphia; D.J. Williams, Denver
2003 – Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh; Bryant Johnson, Arizona.

Polamalu is by far the best player selected in either spot. He will be in the Hall of Fame. There are quality players in there like Williams, Greenway, Rodgers-Cromartie, Iupati, Solder and Kerrigan. Andrews had a pretty good short run as well. Kerrigan is solid and has done some good things versus the Cowboys. Coples has showed some pass rush his first two seasons. I expected more from Kirkpatrick, who was on the Cowboys’ radar in 2012.

The Cowboys held the No. 18 pick in 2013 and traded down to No. 31 with the Niners where they took Travis Frederick. They felt they were in a position to trade down and still pick up a quality player. When they saw Eric Reid, Justin Pugh, Kyle Long and Tyler Eifert go off the board in the next four picks they were left sweating it out until they got Frederick.

How costly was Geno Atkins' injury?

January, 29, 2014
Jan 29
3:15
PM ET
CINCINNATI -- Yes, it's the offseason, meaning the time of year has arrived when media entities compile their sundry end-of-season lists.

As you might have been able to tell, the list frenzy hit ESPN.com's Cincinnati Bengals blog about two weeks ago when we started counting down the top 10 plays from the 2013 season. We've also devoted lists to breaking down the team's position groups, and will have even more list-form analysis regarding other items in the coming months.

Such blogs are good complements to other coverage. They can further and firm what has already been reported, or be good jumping off points for generating discussion as seasons get reviewed and the results of others predicted.

[+] EnlargeTom Brady
Mark Zerof/USA TODAY SportsGeno Atkins' participation in practice had the Bengals pumped on Wednesday.
Over the weekend, Pro Football Focus trotted out one particular list-based blog that evaluated the "costliest" injuries around the league this season. The countdown looked at 10 players across the NFL whose statistics and grade of play made them difficult to replace. The list also included a group of three players who were considered honorable mentions for costliest injury. Of the 13 total players, two were Bengals.

Most notably, PFF said it felt defensive tackle Geno Atkins had the NFL's costliest injury in 2013. Cornerback Leon Hall made the additional three-man cut.

Both are, in fact, among the top players on a defense that entered the season regarded universally as one of the best. That alone made it more difficult to replace them, driving up the metaphoric cost of their mid-season injuries.

But, really, how costly did those injuries -- specifically Atkins' -- turn out to be? After all, without the Pro Bowl lineman and the cornerback who was having a Pro Bowl type of start to his eighth season, the Bengals still finished near the top of the league's defensive rankings. In holding opponents to an average of 305.0 yards per game, Cincinnati ranked third in total defense.

A large part of the reason why the Bengals were able to garner such a high ranking was because they got contributions from other parts of their defense to absorb the injuries to Atkins and Hall. Atkins went down at Miami in Week 9 when he tore an ACL trying to make a tackle. Hall tore an Achilles two weeks prior when he was trying to out-jump Detroit's Calvin Johnson on a fade route into the back of the end zone.

According to PFF, Atkins' replacement, Brandon Thompson, and fellow interior line starter Domata Peko, had issues getting pressure and stopping the run. Thompson had two sacks and no quarterback hits, while Peko "struggled mightily alongside him," the blurb said.

It's tough to really say Atkins' fellow defensive tackles played poorly, because while they may not have been getting pressure or stopping the run with regularity, they were getting help from others. Defensive ends Carlos Dunlap and Wallace Gilberry each had 7.5 sacks, and fellow end Michael Johnson tied for a league-high eight pass deflections at the line. The Bengals' third-down conversion rating was the second highest in the league this season and the highest at home. Even if the Bengals' interior linemen had issues stopping the run overall, they were still doing something right on third down.

It's also unfair to fully pin replacing Atkins' production on Thompson and Peko. They weren't the only ones playing defensive tackle in the wake of Atkins' injury. Fellow tackle Devon Still mixed in a bit at Atkins' old spot, as did ends Gilberry and Margus Hunt. Linebacker James Harrison also played at tackle in certain nickel situations to provide an additional athletic pass-rusher on the interior during passing downs.

Part of PFF's decision to deem Atkins' injury the costliest in the league hinged on the fact that he was the site's Defensive Player of the Year runner-up the year before, and the fact he amassed a dizzying plus-80.0 grade in 2012 from it. That grade was more than double what any other defensive tackle received from the site that season.

Indeed, replacing the best player in the league at his position is a tall, unenviable task. But upon further review, it was one the Bengals actually passed quite easily.

With respect to Hall, though, the challenges for continuity were even greater. The domino effect of his injury and others meant still-learning second-year player Dre Kirkpatrick was thrust into more playing time, as was veteran Chris Crocker, who came out of retirement four weeks into the season. Challenges aside, though, like Atkins' replacement, Hall's held firm without him. Kirkpatrick had his problems combating double moves and deep, wide-open receivers, but he still finished with three interceptions, including two that effectively iced a key win.

Should the injuries to Atkins and Hall have been costly? Most definitely. But the Bengals' talent was just deep enough to prove the pair wasn't completely irreplaceable.

Kiper mock 1.0 reaction: Bengals

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15
3:00
PM ET
CINCINNATI -- Most of the Cincinnati Bengals' more pressing needs in this year's draft will come on defense, as they try to maintain the measure of depth they have enjoyed the past three seasons.

In his first mock draft Insider of the new year, ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. went in precisely that direction as he declared Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard the Bengals' selection with the No. 24 pick of the first round.

Dennard was the second cornerback to go in Kiper's mock draft. Justin Gilbert of Oklahoma State, the top-rated corner on Kiper's Big Board, went 10th to the Detroit Lions.

Cornerback is just one of the more glaring weaknesses the Bengals will have entering this year's draft. They also will be looking to shore up their depth at linebacker, safety, defensive end, guard and offensive tackle. At linebacker, a cover player who can slip into one of the outside linebacker positions during nickel situations will be sought. When Emmanuel Lamur was lost for the year after an injury in the last preseason game, the Bengals spent the next month scrambling to find an adequate nickel linebacker. Part of their plans included shifting defensive back Taylor Mays into the spot.

To avoid such scrambling this year, the Bengals would like a true cover linebacker on the roster in case something happens to Lamur or any of the other outside linebackers next season.

While Terence Newman, Leon Hall, Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick will be back next season, the Bengals still need an extra cornerback in the event injuries hit that position like they did in the first part of the 2013 season. They were fortunate Chris Crocker was still in shape and able to come out of retirement and fill necessary gaps due to early-season injuries to Hall, Jones and Kirkpatrick. When Hall was lost to injury near the middle of the season, Crocker's presence became even more necessary.

Two drafts ago, the Bengals spent their first-round pick on Kirkpatrick. While he started showing signs late this past season that he was beginning to make the transition to the NFL, he still had noticeable struggles. He was out of position at times and completely burned at others. By having another young cornerback come in, particularly if Brandon Ghee doesn't get re-signed this offseason, the Bengals could be sending a message to Kirkpatrick to play well more consistently or risk losing his job.

Dennard has played well for all four of his seasons at Michigan State. Football fans in Cincinnati ought to be somewhat familiar with him, too. This past fall, while helping the Spartans go 11-1 and leading them to a Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl victory, he had 59 tackles and four interceptions. He deflected a pair of passes in MSU's Big Ten title game win over Ohio State.

He also has an NFL connection. The Dry Branch, Ga., native is distantly related to Patriots defensive back and former Nebraska standout Alfonzo Dennard. Like many of the Bengals' cornerbacks, Darqueze Dennard played other positions in high school, including receiver. ESPN's draft insiders laud his cover skills and ability to come away with interceptions.

In addition to linebacker and cornerback, another position the Bengals could attempt to draft in the first round is defensive end. With Michael Johnson likely gone because of the high price tag he likely will fetch following a year spent as the team's franchise player, Cincinnati will be looking to replace him. Although Margus Hunt began to impress coaches by the end of 2013, and veterans Wallace Gilberry and Robert Geathers will be back to rotate into Johnson's spot, the Bengals would like to add another body to help with the depth there.

Possible first-round targets include Notre Dame's Stephon Tuitt and Oregon State's Scott Crichton. Kiper had the Chiefs taking Tuitt one spot ahead of the Bengals at No. 23, and Crichton going to the Broncos at No. 31.
CINCINNATI -- Terence Newman will miss a fourth straight game Sunday as the Cincinnati Bengals listed the veteran cornerback among their inactives ahead of the first-round AFC playoff game here.

Newman was out the last three games of the regular season after suffering an MCL sprain in the Bengals' 42-28 win over the Colts in Week 14. Like they did in the other three games he missed, the Bengals are replacing him with second-year cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. Last week, Kirkpatrick had two interceptions, including one he returned 21 yards for a game-icing touchdown.

Cincinnati closed out the regular season last week with a 34-17 win over the Ravens at home.

In anticipation of a likely start Sunday, Kirkpatrick told ESPN.com earlier this week that he wasn't feeling nervous about making his first career postseason start.

"You can't really get any bigger than the game I played in 2011," the University of Alabama product said. "Alabama-LSU. That game was so big, there was so much media there. I don't look at it as no different. ... Both are on the same platform for me."

It appeared Newman had a chance to play Friday when he participated in his first practice since suffering his knee injury. Even though he returned, he was listed as doubtful on the injury report and didn't seem he would be conditioned enough to play. All signs point to him possibly being healthy enough to play next week if the Bengals win Sunday. With a win in this wild-card game, the Bengals would advance to the divisional round, where they have to travel to New England to face the Patriots. Cincinnati beat New England at Paul Brown Stadium in September.

While Newman was listed among the inactives, two tight ends, Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert, weren't. The pair missed last week's finale and spent much of this past week trying to get back for this game. Gresham didn't play last week after picking up a hamstring injury in the win over Minnesota the week before. Eifert suffered a stinger in that game and was shelved until this past Thursday.

Here are the inactives for both teams:

CHARGERS: QB Brad Sorensen, WR/KR Lavelle Hawkins, S Brandon Taylor, CB Marcus Cromartie, OL Stephen Schilling, OT Kenny Wiggins, DT Sean Lissemore.

BENGALS: WR Dane Sanzenbacher, CB Terence Newman, RB Rex Burkhead, OG Tanner Hawkinson, DT Ogemdi Nwagbuo, TE Kevin Brock, WR Ryan Whalen.

W2W4: Chargers at Bengals

January, 4, 2014
Jan 4
4:30
PM ET
CINCINNATI -- Before the Cincinnati Bengals began practices this week, coach Marvin Lewis rattled off a list of themes they could expect reporters to write about and ask about this week.

In no particular order, among them were statements about how:
  • The Bengals haven't won a playoff game since Andy Dalton and A.J. Green were drafted.
  • The Bengals haven't won a playoff game under Lewis.
  • The Bengals haven't won a playoff game since 1990.
  • The Bengals were good at home, sporting an 8-0 record there this season.

In a week in which Cincinnati was hosting a first-round playoff game against a San Diego team it had already beaten on the road this year, he was trying to get them to feel like underdogs. He wanted his players to feel like they weren't loved by the rest of the football world. He wanted them to feel the same sense of desperation and urgency the fans of their city had felt for 23 years.

He wanted them to know what was at stake Sunday afternoon.

Along with needing a win in order to advance in the playoffs, some around the city simply want the Bengals to win Sunday so they may start changing the city's postseason luck. Lewis knows that. He wanted his players to be aware of that, too.

For a possible drought-ending playoff win to happen, the Bengals will have to do the following four things. Here's this wild-card round Chargers-Bengals W2W4:

Does Good Andy show up? This was the top question most had for the Bengals for 16 weeks this season, as they wondered which version of the team's enigmatic quarterback would make an appearance. "Good Andy," the version of Andy Dalton who posted 300-yard passing games with ease and who could connect with receivers for three and four touchdowns in wins, showed up multiple times this season. But he wasn't present enough to render "Bad Andy" moot. Twice this season, Dalton threw for less than 200 yards in a game and four times had QBRs that were below 30.0. It was mostly against intense pressure that "Bad Andy" arrived on the scene, throwing ill-advised interceptions and forcing incompletions into difficult coverages. During the first half of last month's Bengals-Chargers game, Dalton was bad for one half before completing a 180-degree turn in the second half to help spark a big late-season victory. Of course, Cincinnati will need more of the good guy this week.

Hostile at home. Paul Brown Stadium has been a difficult place for opposing offenses to play this season. Even some of the league's best units -- the No. 3 Packers and No. 7 Patriots -- had their struggles there. New England quarterback Tom Brady saw a consecutive games touchdown streak ended as he was held out of the end zone. Two field goals were all the Patriots could muster in the teams' October meeting in Cincinnati. The Bengals had a timely fumble return for touchdown and a key fourth-down stand that beat Green Bay the week before the Patriots arrived. Inside the building nicknamed "The Jungle," the Bengals are averaging a 17.6-point margin of victory in all eight home wins. Ask the Bengals why they play so well there, and they are quick to defer to fans who attend those games. After needing help from local businesses to make a sellout possible, be on the lookout for how many fans the Bengals are able to have show up. An emptier stadium could lead to a less hostile environment than what the Bengals are accustomed to.

Offensive line shuffle. Last Sunday against Baltimore, Cincinnati's offensive line took a beating so intense that offensive coordinator Jay Gruden was growing concerned about whether he was going to get out of the game with a line he could field this week. At one point, a trainer shouted: "We don't have any offensive tackles." When he did, Andre Smith and Anthony Collins, both sidelined by ankle injuries, offered to go back in and finish the contest. Injuries like those were among reasons why the Bengals barely had any linemen practice Wednesday when the week's playoff preparations began. Center Kyle Cook also had a foot injury and guard Andrew Whitworth dealt with his own ankle issue. Because of the line shuffling that resulted, Gruden said preparations this week have been "unique." While all of the injured linemen should be healthy Sunday, watch to see how well they all respond to their apparently nagging injuries. If just one isn't able to go, it could throw the starting line rotation out of whack. The same anticipated rotation that includes Whitworth at left guard and Collins at left tackle was first used the day the Bengals pounded 150 yards of rushing offense at a battered Chargers defensive line.

Kirkpatrick or Newman? In addition to a little uncertainty on the Bengals' offensive line, there are some question marks revolving around the left boundary cornerback position. Second-year defender Dre Kirkpatrick, who missed Thursday's workout with an illness that he was still getting over Friday, appears set to make his third straight start in place of veteran Terence Newman. Although Newman finally returned to practice Friday for the first time since injuring his left knee Dec. 8, it doesn't appear he's had enough time to get fully healthy. He only had the one day of practice this week. Still, he contends that he'll be in shape if needed. Officially, he was listed as doubtful for the game. Tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert could be similar game-time scratches or additions. After missing last week completely, both were declared questionable going into this weekend.
CINCINNATI -- For the first time in a month, Terence Newman practiced for the Cincinnati Bengals on Friday.

But that might not be enough to get him back in the starting rotation. It appears he will be missing his fourth straight game after being listed as doubtful on the injury report following Cincinnati's final practice ahead of Sunday's playoff game against San Diego.

Newman
Newman
Kirkpatrick
It was originally believed following his Week 14 injury against the Indianapolis Colts that Newman would only miss one to three weeks. After that third week passed seven days ago, he was expected to be back practicing this week. He didn't appear until Friday, continuing to to rehab from his MCL sprain Wednesday and Thursday.

Newman was one of 12 players on the injury report. The list included his backup, Dre Kirkpatrick, who practiced despite having an illness that kept him out Thursday. Since Newman's injury, Kirkpatrick appeared in the past three games. Although he has been beaten at some critical times, he also has come away with three key interceptions, including his game-icing 21-yard interception return for touchdown in last week's 34-17 win against the Ravens.

"It's just about being more focused this time of the year," Kirkpatrick said Friday. "I know what it takes to win championships. Just the intensity has to pick up. I'm not a leader, but I've got the intensity that I am a leader."

Before getting drafted in the first round last year, Kirkpatrick starred in the secondary at Alabama. The Crimson Tide won two BCS championships while Kirkpatrick was there. He was listed as probable on the injury report.

Tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert also made the injury report, marking the second straight week there will be doubt about their playing status. Both were declared inactive last week with respective hamstring and neck injuries. Gresham has practiced all week, despite being limited for part of it. Eifert returned Thursday after suffering a stinger in Cincinnati's win two weeks ago against Minnesota. Both were listed as questionable.

In addition to Kirkpatrick, receiver A.J. Green was listed as probable after dealing with a knee injury that caused him to miss Wednesday's practice. He returned Thursday and was full-go Friday when the Bengals dodged single-digit temperatures by practicing inside the University of Cincinnati's practice bubble.

Here's the full Bengals injury report:

DOUBTFUL
CB Terence Newman (knee)

QUESTIONABLE
C Kyle Cook (foot)
TE Tyler Eifert (neck)
DE Wallace Gilberry (concussion)
TE Jermaine Gresham (hamstring)

PROBABLE
OT Anthony Collins (ankle)
S Chris Crocker (knee)
WR A.J. Green (knee)
CB Dre Kirkpatrick (illness)
LB Vincent Rey (ankle)
OT Andre Smith (ankle)
OL Andrew Whitworth (ankle)

Rapid Reaction: Cincinnati Bengals

December, 29, 2013
12/29/13
4:11
PM ET

CINCINNATI -- A few thoughts on the Cincinnati Bengals' 34-17 victory against the Baltimore Ravens.

What it means: It may not have been pretty, but the Bengals' victory Sunday was just what they needed to build a little momentum entering the postseason. All week players and coaches talked about how they didn't plan on packing it in despite having already earned a playoff berth and another division title. They had every intention of playing their starters throughout the ballgame and doing whatever they could to beat their AFC North-rival Ravens, thereby helping keep the defending league champions out of the playoffs. If the win itself was the good, the bad and ugly were the four turnovers and poorly struck punt the Bengals had in the ballgame. If a team is going to have those miscues, it has to be glad to have them in a win. They could serve as good motivation for Cincinnati, too, as the Bengals look to correct their issues as they get ready for postseason.

Stock watch: Andy Dalton -- Falling. It's hard to truly say the Bengals quarterback's stock is trending downward since he threw for two touchdowns and was close to going beyond the 300-yard mark for a sixth time this season, but he didn't look as good Sunday as he had for most of the rest of the month. Along with his prolific passing numbers, Dalton also threw four interceptions. His first interception came on a deep ball on the game's first play. That pass was slightly underthrown as receiver Marvin Jones had to slow his stride in order to get underneath the ball. When he did, he had the ball ripped from him by Corey Graham. The next interception was the result of miscommunication between Dalton and receiver A.J. Green. They will need to clean that up heading into the postseason. Dalton's performance also came on the same day he set Bengals single-season records in passing yards and touchdowns.

Near-costly Shank: Bengals punter Shawn Powell, brought on two weeks ago in the wake of Kevin Huber's season-ending jaw injury, had a near-costly shank on a third-quarter punt. As he reached back to kick the ball, it appeared his foot got caught in the turf before swinging through and glancing off the ball. When the ball left his foot, it hooked immediately to the left, sailing over the Bengals' sideline and into the first two rows of stadium seats. Altogether, the punt traveled 10 yards, two yards shy of the first down marker the Bengals would have needed to reach if they went for it on fourth-and-12. On the ensuing Ravens drive, Baltimore scored and added a two-point conversion to tie the game. The sequence ended up not hurting the Bengals after all.

Dre's day: Backup cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick had the best performance of his young career, coming away with two interceptions late in the ballgame. Both pickoffs came on consecutive plays on consecutive drives. The second opened the Ravens' second-to-last drive and resulted in an interception return for a touchdown with about four minutes remaining that effectively put the game out of reach.

What's next? The playoffs are up next for the Bengals, who won't know their opponent until the conclusion of Sunday's late afternoon games. They either will play Pittsburgh or San Diego next week at Paul Brown Stadium. If the Patriots lose later Sunday afternoon, Cincinnati will have the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider

NFL SCOREBOARD

Thursday, 9/25
Sunday, 9/28
Monday, 9/29
WEEKLY LEADERS