With Dennard's DUI, Pats Thin At CB
The cornerback situation in New England is looking a little murkier with Alfonzo Dennard’s recent arrest for DUI. While Dennard is still on the team and will report to training camp on July 25, there remains a distinct possibility the troubled CB will miss time, especially with recent reports suggesting that Nebraska wants to revoke Dennard's probation for an earlier offense. If that does happen, Dennard would have to immediately report to jail. That court date is set for July 31. The Patriots would most likely cut him in that scenario.
With this news, it's looking less and less likely Dennard will be suiting up for the Patriots when the regular season starts. With that, let's look at Dennard's role and what options there are to fill it.
Dennard was being counted on to start opposite Aqib Talib, who was recently re-signed to a one-year deal. When Talib was acquired last October, Dennard and Talib quickly became a solid duo for the Patriots woeful secondary.
With few options on the open market, the Patriots will have to look within to fill the role. The most obvious choice would be 2011 second-round pick Ras-I Dowling. Dowling has been a bust so far in his NFL career, only playing in nine games due to injuries. His roster spot is far from guaranteed, but his tall frame and speed make him an ideal corner on the outside.
Kyle Arrington, who signed a four-year, $16 million deal this offseason, is another potential candidate. Arrington recorded seven interceptions in 2011, tied for first in the NFL, but only recorded one in 2012. Arrington is better suited covering the slot due to his quickness and smaller frame. He has also been exposed playing on the outside, most recently in the AFC Championship game against the Baltimore Ravens.
2013 third-round pick Logan Ryan could also contribute in his first season with the Patriots. The Rutgers alum was touted as a solid corner when he was taken this past April, who was technically sound but didn’t have elite speed. While he is unproven, he has the most upside of any CB currently on the roster. More of him will be seen come training camp.
As Mike Rodak of ESPNBoston pointed out, an outside-the-box candidate could be Devin McCourty. Originally drafted as a corner, the 2010 pro-bowler impressed in his rookie year before having a major sophomore slump. Last year, after the Talib trade, McCourty switched over to safety, where he excelled. While not ideal, the Patriots could move McCourty back for the time being, and then have Steve Gregory and Adrian Wilson start at safety.
If Dennard does miss significant time, the Patriots best chance is for Dowling to seize the starting role opposite Talib. It allows continuity at safety with Devin McCourty, and it doesn’t thrust a rookie into a starting role. Arrington could also stay in his more natural slot/nickel position.