Dre Kirkpatrick, Cincinnati Bengals cornerback
Kirkpatrick is one of two Bengals in this category. With concerns surrounding fellow corner Adam Jones’ future with the Bengals, Kirkpatrick, becomes a priority this offseason. Coming off the best year in his career, he has earned the hefty contract he’ll be paid, whether in Cincinnati or elsewhere.
But the Bengals, despite appearing deep at the position on paper, don’t have much experience behind the two starters — something they value much more than most other teams in the league. Franchising Kirkpatrick could be a last-resort move the Bengals make to ensure their talented press corner remains a fixture in the team’s ascending secondary.
Biggest 2017 game: If you want to return to a bowl, you probably don’t want to lose to Georgia State for the third consecutive year.
Summary: Georgia Southern lost its way in Summers’ first season. The Eagles will try to re-up their option credentials, and the pass defense should improve, but Summers has a lot of holes to fill and, if Southern’s historical impatience is any indication, not a lot of time.
Georgia Southern’s spirit animal is a man named Erk. He runs the option on offense and takes your head off on defense.
When the school decided it wanted to play football, Erk Russell almost immediately led the Eagles to two I-AA national titles. He picked up the town of Statesboro, called it the most beautiful place he’d ever seen, and loved it like a father. His shadow might hang more fully over the Georgia Southern program than any other coach’s anywhere. And that’s quite the statement.
Erk’s influence over Georgia Southern is such that fans cannot imagine running anything other than the clean, beautiful option. And when a coach tries to change — or when he doesn’t love the option enough — the Eagles fail. It has become self-fulfilling.