It’s been a big year for New England Patriots rookies. Defensive end Chandler Jones and linebacker Dont’a Hightower were selected in the first round of this year’s draft and have been integral parts of the Patriots defense. Running back Brandon Bolden and safety Tavon Wilson have been thrown into the fray due to injury and performed exceptionally well. One rookie hasn’t had as easy of a time adjusting to the NFL,but cornerback Alfonzo Dennard showed excellent progress in Monday night’s win.
Dennard was considered one of the top defensive backs in this year’s draft but slipped to the seventh round when he was arrested just days before the draft. Needing to impress the Patriots and prove he was a worthy investment, Dennard suffered a hamstring injury that kept him out for most of training camp and much of the season.
With several injuries in the Patriots secondary it looked as though Dennard would get his chance to shine, but the Patriots went out and acquired cornerback Aqib Talib from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Talib’s impressive showing pushed Dennard further back from the playing field despite the team moving Pro Bowl cornerback Devin McCourty to safety.
In the second quarter of Monday night’s win over the Houston Texans, Talib suffered a hip injury, which despite running on the sideline, kept him out for the remainder of the game. That gave Dennard the opportunity to prove himself against Texans Pro Bowl wide receiver Andre Johnson. Dennard performed valiantly ending the game with four tackles and limiting Johnson.
In games that Dennard has played this season he hasn’t lived up to the promise shown at Nebraska. Despite being taken out with another hamstring injury in the fourth quarter Monday night, Dennard finally showed the Patriots what they could get out of their penultimate draft pick.
Neither Talib nor Dennard’s injuries seem to be serious and both are expected to be fully healed for next week’s contest against the San Francisco 49ers. Dennard’s performance Monday night is a welcomed sight for the Patriots who have had unfortunate luck trying to rebuild their secondary with Ras-I Dowling and Patrick Chung being limited due to injury. If Dennard can continue to progress at this level, he could become a key component of the Patriots defense for years to come.