The Achilles' heel for the New England Patriots over the past five years or so has been its pass defense.
It has plagued New England throughout the regular season, constantly putting them in the back of the pack in yards allowed through the air, and it has certainly come back to bite them in the postseason.
In both Super Bowl losses to the Giants, last-minute drives through the air are what doomed the Patriots; in last year’s loss to the Ravens in the AFC Championship Game, the Patriots gave up three second-half touchdowns through the air once cornerback Aqib Talib injured his thigh.
From 2010 through last season, the Patriots overall rank in passing yards allowed is 29th, 31st and 30th, respectively. The team ranked 12th in passing yards in 2009 before taking its dramatic dive.
Can we expect more of the same from the Pats secondary this season?
The team brought back what they hope will be their No. 1 cornerback in Talib on a one-year deal. He will be asked to cover the opposing team’s top receiving threat, and with part of last season with the Patriots under his belt, Talib should do well in the role.
Perhaps lining up on the other side of the field – provided he doesn’t end up in even more legal trouble – is Alfonzo Dennard.
Dennard, who already is to serve a 30-day jail sentence after the season for punching a cop, was arrested on suspicion of DUI earlier this month. That news came shortly after the Aaron Hernandez murder charge, prompting many NFL fans and pundits to call for the Patriots to release Dennard.
But New England chose not to, realizing that the talent he possesses is too much to part with, whether or not he can’t stay out of trouble.
Dennard is in camp with the rest of the team, but last week wouldn’t talk about the recent charges against him, and whether or not it violates the probation he’s on.
"I'm not going to talk about that right now," Dennard told reporters. "I'm just happy to be out there on the field. It's a good opportunity.”
Kyle Arrington also looks to play a big role in the Patriots' secondary once again as a slot corner, while Ras-I Dowling needs to prove he can stay on the field.
The Patriots also drafted rookie CB Logan Ryan in the third round of this year’s NFL Draft.