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Patriots’ Dennard Making Case To Start At Corner

By Matthew Geagan, CBSBoston
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Patriots corner Alfonzo Dennard. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Patriots corner Alfonzo Dennard. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

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BOSTON (CBS) – It’s been apparent for the first six weeks of the 2012 season that the New England Patriots’ secondary, plain and simple, is not that good.

They’ve been burned on big plays, penalized for simply not turning around and playing the ball, and one of the most glaring reasons the Patriots are currently sitting at 3-3.

Sure, you can pin the Week 2 loss to the Cardinals on the foot of Stephen Gostkowski, and last week’s debacle on some errant Tom Brady throws to the other team — and a few to no one at all. But the one constant this season has been the woeful secondary getting torched time after time down field.

It’s a young group back there, one that touted three rookies during the second half Sunday in Seattle, so growing pains are to be expected. But these pains have lasted nearly three years now; Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty are now considered veterans of the league, and should be better. Last year’s NFL interception leader Kyle Arrington’s performance on Sunday was so bad, Bill Belichick made him ride the pine (or steel in this case) for a seventh-round pick.

But with that pick being Alfonzo Dennard, who was predicted to go much higher if it weren’t for off-field issues, that might not be such a bad thing.

Digital Debate: Any Hope For Patriots Secondary?

The fact is, Dennard actually played well in his time on the field. Although he was flagged for a pass interference on Braylon Edward’s fourth quarter touchdown — a flag that could have just as easily been thrown on Edwards or kept in the official’s pocket — his 47 snaps (via ESPN’s Mike Reiss) were more impressive than any of the other corners’ on the field Sunday in Seattle.

So why not play the rookie more? It can’t possibly get worse back there for New England, right?

Dennard spoke with the media on Tuesday, and he tip-toed around talk of him potentially becoming a starting corner for New England. Instead, he stressed what the secondary — as a unit — needs to do in order to stop being the butt-end of jokes on Twitter, and more importantly, long scoring plays by the Patriots’ opposition.

“We have to make more plays on the ball,” he said.

Simple enough, but it hasn’t seemed that way for the Patriots. But Dennard knows he has a tough job, one of the toughest in the NFL.

“There is a lot of stuff you have to do (as a corner),” said Dennard. “You have to mirror the receiver’s every move. You have to have your technique on point. You almost have to know what the receiver is going to do before he does it.”

Read: Secondary Remains Primary Concern In New England

Dennard stressed that the secondary can’t let quarterbacks “lull” them to sleep, only to burn them with a deep pass on play action. Most importantly, the secondary must stay focused at all times.

“We have to stay focused on what we have to do out there. We have to play as a team; everyone has to be on the same page,” he said.

That simply has not been the case as of late, but Dennard, who missed time during the camp and preseason with a hamstring injury, is doing his best to catch up, and try to make an impact on the struggling secondary.

And right now, it’s better than a lot of what the Patriots have had to offer so far.

Tune in to Patriots-Jets on Sunday at 4:25pm on WBZ-TV and 98.5 The Sports Hub. Coverage begins at 11:30am with Patriots GameDay on WBZ-TV, with Patriots Preview beginning at 1pm on 98.5. Following the game, stayed tuned for three hours of post game coverage on The Sports Hub, and Patriots 5th Quarter over on MyTV38!

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