The New England Patriots continue to purge themselves of depth at the cornerback position. After both Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner departed the team in free agency, it became apparent that the defending champs were in trouble at this all-important position.
Spending a late-round pick on a corner in the draft last week probably didn’t calm many nerves. Releasing former seventh-round pick Alfonzo Dennard on Tuesday probably calmed even less nerves.
Dennard, who took a back seat on the team’s depth chart last season, remains an extremely talented corner. He fell to the seventh round of the 2012 draft because of a situation in which he assaulted a police officer a couple days before the event itself.
His fall down the Patriots’ depth chart came about as quickly as his ascension into an important role in 2012. That season saw Dennard put up 35 tackles, seven passes defended, three interceptions and a touchdown in 10 games (seven starts). The Nebraska product then followed that up with one more interception and 12 passes defended in nine starts the following year.
Unfortunately for Dennard, the additions of Browner and Revis prior to last season coupled with the internal opinion of Dennard forced him down the depth chart in 2014. He played in six games (four starts), recording just one interception and 15 tackles. Overall, Dennard saw his snap total decrease from 727 in 2013 to 241 this past season.
Dennard’s lack of playing time wasn’t helped by a shoulder injury that kept him out of all of the team’s offseason activities. Still, it was pretty surprising to see Logan Ryan and eventual Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler pass him up on the depth chart.
It’s also surprising that New England wasn’t able to acquire a late-round pick for Dennard during the draft. At 25 years old and with starter-caliber talent, there had to be some type of a market for his services.
The Boston Globe’s Ben Volin gives us some background into why Dennard was ultimately shown the door in New England:
A league source also said the Patriots’ coaching staff wasn’t impressed with Dennard’s work ethic and dedication, and took note that he didn’t show up at Gillette Stadium for too many workouts this offseason.
It will be interesting to see if there’s much of a market for him in free agency. Teams already know what they have heading into offseason activities, so that could act as an advantage for the young corner.
For New England, the hope is that new additions Bradley Fletcher, Robert McClain and Chimdi Chekwa can team up with what the team already has to field an above-average cornerback group.
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