(This is another entry into Musket Fire’s ‘Positional Breakdown’ feature.)
Cornerbacks under contract for 2013: Alfonzo Dennard, Derrick Martin, Malcolm Williams, Ras-I Dowling
Dennard was a seventh round draft pick out of Nebraska. He was rated as high as a second round talent. Off the field issues made him fall all the way to the seventh round, but he kept that in check in 2012 and the Pats got a very solid player. Dennard had very a good year, as he showed exceptional cover skills throughout the year. Even when Aqib Talib was on the team I think Dennard had the best cover skills on the team. He is a very tough guy and is aggresive at the line of scrimmage, he also has pretty good ball skills. The one knock on him is his size. He really is only around 5’9 and bigger receivers can have a pretty good day against him. Dennard will make them work for it however and I expect Dennard to have an even better year in 2013.
Derrick Martin, Malcolm Williams, and Ras-I Dowling:
Martin and Williams were mostly special team players for the Patriots, but both of them had to play some spot duty during the season because of injuries. They really are no more than depth at the position and good special team players. Dowling however, seemed to be on his way to playing a lot this season, but early in the year the coaching staff benched him. They seemed to not like what he was doing in practice or in the games. Dowling was injured a few weeks later and landed himself on IR. Dowling is a talented kid, and the Pats have to find a way to keep him on the field if they ever want to get an impact out of him.
The major concern at the position for the Pats is whether or not they resign Aqib Talib. They really need him back as he gave the Pats a guy they can put out on an island and “go to work”. Talib is a big aggressive corner that makes a lot of plays. He also allows the rest of the defense to be more aggressive and make plays of their own. Kyle Arrington is also a free agent and I think the Pats should try and resign him as well. Arrington is pretty awful on the outside, but he was very solid in the slot late in the season. The Patriots also in my opinion have to go out and try and get another aggressive corner. Whether or not Talib stays, they still need someone else that can make plays for them. Either in the draft or through free agency they need to go get someone. If Talib is not resigned then I think that becomes the highest priority for the team, because you do not want Devin McCourty or Kyle Arrington playing on the outside. If Talib is resigned though, I think the Pats have a very solid combination of cornerbacks between him and Dennard. However they really do need to add someone else if they want to advance to the ranks of the elite. Next seasons success pertaining to the cornerbacks really hinges on whether Talib is resigned, if he is then I expect them to be severely improved over last season.