CINCINNATI — Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick got to see receiver Julio Jones’ rare abilities during practice at Alabama.
They’ve never gone head-to-head in the NFL, which is about to change on Sunday in Atlanta when they’re paired again in a nostalgic rematch.
The Falcons made Jones the sixth overall pick in 2011, when he left Alabama after his junior season. Kirkpatrick was a year behind him at Alabama, giving him a chance to cover him in practice. The Bengals took Kirkpatrick with the 17th overall pick in 2012.
The Falcons (1-2) and Bengals (2-1) have played once while they were both in the NFL. The Bengals won 24-10 at Paul Brown Stadium during the 2014 season, when Kirkpatrick was on special teams only. Jones caught seven passes for 88 yards and a touchdown.
Kirkpatrick won’t be assigned to Jones on Sunday, but he’ll likely wind up covering him on some plays, allowing them to renew their one-on-one history.
“I just know that competitive nature me and him had when I was down there,” Kirkpatrick said. “It’s like me and A.J. (Green). Sometimes me and A.J. are about to kill each other in practice.”
The Bengals have given up a lot of yards in their first three games, facing offences that aren’t as highly ranked as Atlanta’s. Andrew Luck and Joe Flacco threw for more than 300 yards each in the Bengals’ opening wins — late turnovers made the difference.
Christian McCaffrey ran for 184 yards and Cam Newton ran for a pair of touchdowns in Carolina’s 31-21 victory on Sunday that left Cincinnati ranked 26th in the league in defence. The Bengals are last in third downs, allowing opponents to convert 52 per cent.
The defence is still adapting to a new co-ordinator, two new position coaches, and the influx of young players over the past two seasons. The Bengals have their youngest team in coach Marvin Lewis’ 16 seasons.
“We’ve got a lot of new, but you’ve got to get it right,” Lewis said Wednesday. “We do a lot of things really good. We’re fifth or sixth in the league on first down. We’ve got to put it all together.”
The cornerbacks are a strength of the unit, featuring three first-round picks — Kirkpatrick, Darqueze Dennard and William Jackson. They’ll get their biggest test yet on Sunday, with three former Alabama players figuring prominently.
Falcons rookie receiver Calvin Ridley was the 26th overall pick out of Alabama. Ridley had seven catches for 146 yards and three touchdowns in Atlanta’s 43-37 overtime loss to New Orleans on Sunday.
“Bragging rights and everything,” Kirkpatrick said. “I’m looking forward to it. A great challenge. Julio is still my guy win, lose or draw. This week I feel like it’s going to be a little extra something.”
The Bengals put second-year defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow on injured reserve with a torn ACL suffered in Sunday’s game. They signed defensive tackle Adolphus Washington off the Cowboys’ practice squad. The Cincinnati native and former Ohio State player was drafted by the Bills in the third round in 2016 and played 31 games for Buffalo. He was waived on Sept. 11 and signed by the Cowboys. It’s unclear whether he’ll learn the defence enough to be able to blend into the Bengals’ line rotation on Sunday.
“It’s a matter of how much he can absorb, given he landed at 7:30 last night,” Lewis said.
GREEN HAS LIMITED PRACTICE
Receiver A.J. Green had a limited practice Wednesday. He sat out the second half at Carolina with a groin/hip injury. Also limited were running back Giovani Bernard (thigh), Kirkpatrick (groin), Dennard (calf), linebacker Preston Brown (ankle), left tackle Cordy Glenn (knee) and defensive end Michael Johnson (knee).
MIXON AND PRICE IMPROVING
Running back Joe Mixon and rookie centre Billy Price will miss their second game with injuries, but Lewis said Wednesday they’re making progress and could be back within a few weeks. Mixon had knee surgery to remove torn cartilage, and Price has a sprained foot.