Dowling was expected be the shutdown corner that the Patriots’ pass defense was missing in recent seasons. However, Dowling has not been able to establish himself as a skilled cover cornerback. Instead, he has been labeled as an injury-prone bust in two seasons.
The demoralizing tag has been true of Dowling in his short career, given he has played in just nine of a possible 32 games in two seasons in the NFL. He was a starter in his rookie season, but lasted just two games before rupturing a tendon in his leg, leading to his placement on the injured reserve.
The next season, Dowling again found himself a starter on the defensive unit, but for a second straight year he ended on injured reserve, this time after suffering a torn quadriceps after appearing in just seven games in 2012.
While Dowling has done little to shed the label of a bust in his short career, he has the potential to reverse his fortunes and become an impact defender. His size (6-foot-1, 210 pounds) suits his position perfectly as he excels at getting physical with the wide receivers on the outside at the five-yard mark near the line of scrimmage.
Dowling must prove that he can healthy in order to earn his starting job back. Kyle Arrington was the starting cornerback alongside Aqib Talib at the Patriots’ OTA’s, but the Patriots may be better suited with the cornerback tandem of Dowling and Talib down the road.
There will be strong competition for the second starting cornerback position to pair with Talib. Not only will Dowling have to battle Arrington for the spot, he will also have to compete with Alfonzo Dennard, who is coming off a strong first season in the NFL, and clash with rookie corner Logan Ryan for the starting nod.
From a pure skill set point of view, Dowling could be the Pats best option at the outside corner, but he will have to prove himself in training camp and pre-season that he belongs in the starting defensive unit.