Patriots positional review: Cornerbacks

Patriots positional review: Cornerbacks
February 19, 2014, 5:30 pm
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Tom E. Curran continues his position-by-position analysis of the Patriots as we head into the offseason. Today: Cornerbacks. Tomorrow: Safeties.

AGE: 28 (2/13/86)
STATS: 13 games, 41 tackles, 6 INTs, 13 passes defensed
2014 CAP HIT: free agent
Until injuring his hip in the sixth game of the season, Talib was arguably the league’s best defender. He capped that stretch by pitching a shutout on Saints tight end Jimmy Graham. But that’s where it ended in terms of dominance. The injury, his recuperation from it and the difficulty of getting back to 100 percent while in season dropped Talib from brilliant to very good. And that was still enough to be a difference maker on the Patriots defense. Now New England faced a tough call on whether or not to apply the franchise tag to Talib, sign him to a long-term deal or take their chances he finds a better offer on the free agent market. Given the number of high-priced, injury-prone players the team has already, dropping $11.5 million on Talib for the one-year franchise cost is not the kind of smart fiscal management that makes billionaires out of scatbacks from Columbia. But football coaches from Wesleyan don’t win three Lombardis without truly excellent defenders on their team and Talib is one of those.
AGE: 27 (8/12/86)
STATS: 16 games, 62 tackles, 1 INT, 2 sacks, 12 passes defensed)
CONTRACT: Expires after 2016
2014 CAP HIT: $3.625M ($2M base salary, $1.625M prorated bonus)
The oft-maligned Arrington has a skill set that’s underappreciated. Strong and quick, he checks slot receivers and works in small spaces very well. When he’s forced to work outside the numbers (because of injury and depleted numbers) it becomes harder for him because he’s short-legged and doesn’t match up well with big receivers in terms of stride or leaping ability. He ended ’13 with a groin malady that required surgery and that issue affected his play. Also a good special teams coverage player.
AGE: 28 (2/13/86)
STATS: 16 games, 35 tackles, 5 INTs, 1.5 sacks
CONTRACT: Expires after 2016
2014 CAP HIT: $655,813 ($495K salary, $140,813 prorated bonus)
Excellent rookie season for a surprise pick from Rutgers. Showed great anticipation and understanding of where he could roll the dice in the Patriots defense and where he shouldn’t. Can play inside if Arrington is down or outside if summoned to be out there. Certainly a reason for optimism.
AGE: 24 (9/9/89)
STATS: 13 games, 40 tackles, 1 INT.
CONTRACT: Expires after 2015
2014 CAP HIT: $584,462 ($480K salary, $14,462 prorated bonus)
A very competitive No. 2 corner who has size limitations but plays with very good competitiveness. Dennard battled injuries most of the season and his poor performance against Denver in the AFC Championship was more easily understood when I saw him in the locker room with a pronounced limp and a bandaged shoulder. It will be interesting to see if he holds off Ryan going forward.