What needs to happen for Dre Kirkpatrick to have breakout season?

CINCINNATI -- With organized team activities now over for the Cincinnati Bengals, we are winding down our position-by-position look at where their offseason roster currently stands.

We started at quarterback, wondering if Andy Dalton really could be pushed by his three backups. Then we looked at running back, where we explored the feasibility of using a true fullback this year. We also questioned whether or not Marvin Jones and Mario Alford could be difference-makers at receiver. We then asked if the Bengals had enough time to build depth under Tyler Eifert, followed by an inquiry about the help Russell Bodine needs on the offensive line's interior. Next was an exploration into the consistency the Bengals have at offensive tackle with Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith in the final years of their current deals.

On Tuesday, we looked into how Michael Johnson's free-agency addition could help Cincinnati's fledgling pass rush. Wednesday, we broke down what the Bengals needed to do to get Geno Atkins back to Pro Bowl form. Thursday was an assessment of the linebacker position and what the Bengals needed to do to keep it from being a question mark like it was last season.

Let's conclude in the secondary, where we ask: What needs to happen for Dre Kirkpatrick to have the breakout season many expect?


DBs on the roster: 16 -- Kirkpatrick, Leon Hall, Adam Jones, Darqueze Dennard, Chris Lewis-Harris, Brandon Ghee, Onterio McCalebb, Erick Dargan, Floyd Raven Sr., Derron Smith, Reggie Nelson, George Iloka, Shiloh Keo, Shawn Williams, Josh Shaw, Troy Hill

Expected DB rotation: At cornerback, the Bengals are still apparently putting together their rotation. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said earlier this week that the starting left cornerback job was still open, even if Kirkpatrick is under the impression he has already earned it. Dennard is still in the mix for the opportunity, although down the line he may be best suited to play in the slot. Otherwise, Hall and Jones' cornerback roles are effectively set in stone, as are Nelson and Iloka's at safety.

Behind Nelson and Iloka, look for Williams to get more regular playing time as the Bengals continue searching for ways to use him on defense. The rookie Smith could be another solid alternate at safety, although getting on the field may be a challenge. The same could go for Shaw, another rookie who has high future upside. Lewis-Harris, Ghee, McCalebb, Dargan, Raven, Keo and Hill likely are on the back end of the safety and corner rotations and could be among possible training-camp cuts.

Offseason goals for DBs: When it comes to Kirkpatrick, the goal is simple: keep improving. On the heels of his two-interception Monday night game at the end of last season, he's poised for a true breakout year. What has to happen for that to occur? Well, for starters, the Bengals need to settle their cornerback position battle. Kirkpatrick received his share of starter's reps during OTAs and has even said he knows he's the primary option at the left boundary spot. Kirkpatrick can also break out if he keeps up what he's been doing all offseason -- taking his training seriously and avoiding past off-field habits that might have negatively affected his training like staying up late.

Health is an issue for Iloka right now, so his objective revolves around getting over an undisclosed injury in time for training camp. It has been expected he'll be healthy by then. As for the entire defensive backfield, more attention must be made on catching interceptions. The group dropped several crucial would-be pickoffs last season.