The Agony And The Ecstasy – Pt. 2: Predicting The Busts And Breakouts Of 2013
Each season comes with the promise that some players will realize their talent and the sad truth that others will disappoint. So it should come as little surprise that the Cincinnati Bengals have a few players that should realize their talent – either through better health, more opportunity or both – and a few players who will likely disappoint.
CB Dre Kirkpatrick – Whatever could go wrong did go wrong for the first of the Bengals’ two first-round picks in the 2012 NFL Draft. Kirkpatrick entered the league last summer as the big physical cornerback Cincinnati needed after Johnathan Joseph left for Houston and Leon Hall tore his Achilles. Instead, he suffered a preseason knee injury that ultimately sidelined him through the team’s Week 8 bye and suffered a concussion five weeks later. Kirkpatrick should be better in 2013 simply because he will such a hard time staying healthy in consecutive seasons. A physical 6-2 cornerback like Kirkpatrick offers a combination of size and tackling ability that no one else at his position has on the team. Furthermore, there is a very good chance that at least one of the three free-agent cornerbacks on the team (Nate Clements, Adam Jones and Terence Newman) will not return, meaning he will have less competition to deal with in camp.
LB Emmanuel Lamur – As things stand right now, MLB Rey Maualuga will not likely return and Vontaze Burfict appears poised to fill his spot. With Burfict moving inside to replace Maualuga and Thomas Howard – the Week 1 WLB starter – recovering from a torn ACL, the door is open for Lamur to take advantage. Lamur parlayed a Week 9 promotion from the practice squad into positive grades across the board in a part-time role. Lamur and Burfict are plenty athletic to be left in the game in nickel and dime situations, meaning if Howard experiences any kind of setback in his recovery, Cincinnati could have a pair of undrafted free agents as its three-down linebackers and feel pretty good about the position.
RT Andre Smith – It’s always hard to believe an injury-prone player not known for his work ethic just happens to put it all together the very same year that he is in line for his second contract. To his credit, Smith has been able to stay on the field over the last two seasons after missing a combined 19 games in 2009 and 2010. Performances like the ones Smith had against Denver in Week 9 (two sacks allowed and two hurries) or Philadelphia in Week 15 (three sacks allowed and four hurries) won’t be tolerated from a right tackle likely to make $10 M a season in 2013. If Cincinnati doesn’t play with the lead as often as it did in 2012, Smith’s average pass-blocking skills could get exposed.
CB/S Nate Clements – It’s way too early to tell if Clements will have a starting spot waiting for him in training camp – if he is even re-signed – since the Bengals figure to address his position in the draft, but the combination of age and likely talented competition for the strong safety spot figure to reduce his snaps at the very least. A first- or second-round talent at safety like Florida International’s Johnathan Cyprien or South Carolina’s D.J. Swearinger might be just enough to push Clements into a swingman role at both cornerback and safety if he returns to the “Queen City”.