With Patriots training camp set to open on July 26, CBSBostonSports.com will break down the outlook for every position on the roster. Today’s breakdown is on the cornerbacks.

Position: Cornerbacks
Major Players: Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington, Ras-I Dowling, Alfonzo Dennard, Sterling Moore
On The Bubble: Marquice Cole, Will Allen


Is Devin McCourty the player who was a rookie sensation with seven interceptions and a sack, or is he the player who struggled tremendously and eventually had to be moved to safety in year two?

The Patriots have to hope he’s at least somewhere in between, because if he’s not, they’re in for yet another season of instability in the defensive backfield.

That’s not to say they haven’t improved, though. With the drafting of Alfonzo Dennard, who only dropped to the seventh round for concerns about his arrest and not his skills, and the return of a healthy Ras-I Dowling, and the Patriots have two young corners who could and should contribute in a big way this season.

Patriots Preview: Defensive Line

Remember, the team was high on Dowling when drafting him with the 33rd pick in last year’s draft before getting hurt early in the year and going on IR. His absence, combined with McCourty’s struggles, led to the chaos at corner that took place for much of the year. Leigh Bodden was released, and Antwaun Molden, Sterling Moore, Nate Jones and Julian Edelman were left to fill in the gaps.

Bill Belichick made it work, but it was certainly not close to an ideal situation. And while the Patriots were able to get by the weak passing attacks of the Broncos and Ravens in the playoffs, Eli Manning was able to do what he wanted in the Super Bowl, completing 30 of his 40 passes for 296 yards. It wasn’t an atrocious day for the defense, but it was a game that could have been turned with one interception that never came.

Patriots Preview: Offensive Line

The additions of veteran Will Allen and former Jet Marquice Cole could prove somewhat useful, but really, the focus for the cornerbacks entering 2012 will be on McCourty. His second-year struggles were basically impossible to explain. For the Patriots to have stability and reliability in their defensive backfield, it will need to begin with McCourty.

Read more from Michael by clicking here, or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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