January 19, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington (25) in the first of the game against the Denver Broncos of the 2013 AFC Championship football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots Final Report Card: Cornerbacks

Jan 11, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (37) intercepts a pass intended for Indianapolis Colts wide receiver LaVon Brazill (not pictured) during the first quarter of the 2013 AFC divisional playoff football game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Over the next couple of days, Musket Fire will be running an end of year, ‘report card’ feature, that will give a final grade to each positional group for the 2013 season. Up next is the cornerbacks.

Final Grade: B+

It was a weird season for this group of players, mainly because of all the injuries they had to deal with. Whether it was Aqib Talib going down, or Alfonzo Dennard missing time, there was always a key contributor hurt for this group, and it really hurt them in the AFC Championship game, when Talib exited early with a hip injury.

However when healthy, I truly believe that the Patriots had one of the best group of cornerbacks in the league. Talib is a lock-down guy, who can shut down just about anybody, Dennard is a solid, albeit small number two corner, and Kyle Arrington played well in the slot. This all goes without mentioning the superb play of rookie Logan Ryan, as he led the team with five interceptions. Ryan is another guy that Belichick took out of Rutgers, and it appears that he has hit on another great defensive player. When these four guys were all healthy, it was tough to throw on these Patriots. Talib basically took away half of the field, and even though Dennard is smaller than most corners in today’s NFL, his man coverage is up there with the best of them. Yes, he didn’t have his best performance in the most important game of the year, but that shouldn’t take away the phenomenal regular season he had. A lot of Pats fans complain about Arrington, and if he is on the outside, the criticism is definitely fair. But when moved to the inside, he plays very well, and hangs with most of the top slot guys in the league, specifically a certain number 83 that used to play in Foxboro.

But as great as this group was, they simply couldn’t stay on the field. It doesn’t matter how talented you are, if you aren’t able to avoid injury, then players who aren’t fit for NFL action will find themselves on the field, and the results don’t benefit the Patriots. I would say that these guys are set up well for 2014, but the truth is, we will see the same result if they continue to miss significant time due to injuries. Re-signing Talib is a must, and I wouldn’t mind seeing them bring in quality depth, to combat the unavoidable injury bug next season.

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Tags: Alfonzo Dennard Aqib Talib Kyle Arrington Logan Ryan New England Patriots

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