Alfonzo Dennard’s tenure in New England may be coming to a screeching halt. Dennard is scheduled to be in court on July 31 to determine if his arrest for driving under the influence violates his probation that resulted from him being convicted for assaulting a police officer in 2012.
After shining in his rookie season, Dennard was expected to be a starting cornerback in the New England Patriots’ secondary. If the court finds that Dennard violated his probation, he could face immediate jail time and a potential suspension from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The Patriots’ hand may be forced in terms of releasing the talented cornerback in the wake of the Aaron Hernandez murder charges as the organization looks to rebuilds its image as a franchise.
If Dennard is released, Ras-I Dowling could be given a chance to thrive in the Patriots’ secondary. Dowling has been decimated by injuries since being drafted by the Patriots with the 33rd overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Dowling has played in only nine of a possible 32 games in his short career, landing on the injured reserve in each of his first two seasons in the league.
Despite his health woes, there is a case to be made that Dowling is the best cornerback on the team when healthy, with all due respect to Aqib Talib. Dowling excelled in training camp and the preseason back in 2011 as he surprisingly won the starting job as a rookie, before rupturing a tendon in his leg that KO’d him for the remainder of the season after playing just two games.
In 2012, Dowling again found himself a starter after another impressive preseason. He landed on the injured reserve with a torn quadriceps after appearing in just seven games that year.
With Dowling currently healthy, the cornerback has his eyes set on the Patriots training camp, beginning on July 26. Dowling’s track record insists that he will be spectacular in training camp and the preseason in 2013. Then again, history also suggests that he will not last the entire 2013 season.
Dowling’s health is clearly the major storyline for the Patriots’ secondary. 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. A cornerback duo of Dowling and Talib (6-foot-1,205 pounds) would be daunting to opponents wide receivers.
The Patriots must prepare for the possibility of life without Dennard. Dowling’s skill set and size puts him in line to start at cornerback, if the Patriots opt to release Dennard.