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While the Patriots 2012/13 season ended in extreme disappointment, corner back Alfonzo Dennard's emergence as a capable starting corner back was perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the year. Especially considering he was selected in the 7th round of the draft (224th pick overall), Dennard's performance this year was impressive.

As Ras-I Dowling, who the Patriots selected with the 33rd pick in the 2011 draft, is looking more and more like a certified bust, early signs indicate Dennard is a certified steal. At one point during his senior year, he was projected be be picked as high as the second round.

But Dennard's draft stock plummeted after an incident last Spring, for which Dennard is still dealing with the repercussions. On February 13th, Dennard will be in court to face charges stemming from his alleged attack of a police officer outside a Lincoln, Nebraska bar in April of 2012. He was even forced to miss practice in the week leading up to the Ravens game where the secondary was torched by Joe Flacco.

But Bill Belichick and the Patriots have a history of taking troubled players under the wing and making the most of them. And it looks like Dennard could be one of those cases.

Dennard missed the first four games of the season with a leg injury. He made his debut in Week 5 against the Broncos, where he had one tackle and didn't allow a completion despite four balls being thrown his way. He has 3 interceptions on the year, including an 87 yard pick-6 against the Indianapolis Colts. 

Dennard's Interception vs. the Jets at Foxborough on October 21st
Dennard truly played a major role in solidifying the Patriots secondary the in the second half of the season. While many point to Talib as the catalyst for drastically improved pass defense, I would argue Dennard was equally as impressive and important. All together in his rookie season, Dennard had 34 tackles, seven passes defended, 3 interceptions, and 1 touch down. He also did an excellent job defending Andre Johnson, one of the league's best receivers, in the second half of the Patriots first match with the Texans. Dennard was forced to line up with Johnson when Talib left with an injury.

Once the Patriots signed Talib, Dennard's ability to play reliably and consistently in the pass game allowed for Devin McCourty to move permanently to safety alongside Steve Gregory. This grouping ultimately proved to be the most effective for the team's defense this year.

Hopefully Dennard can stay out of trouble and continue to grow as a player. The organization took a chance on him, and if Dennard's rookie campaign is any indication, it was a chance well-worth taking.

@LiamPCunningham

Liam Cunningham 1/23/2013 09:41:00 PM Edit
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