A week after playing a prominent role in the team's nickel defense, Patriots cornerback Ras-I Dowling failed to log a single snap on Sunday. Fellow second-year player Sterling Moore assumed the role Dowling held in Week 1, suggesting he has leapfrogged up the depth chart to become the team's third cornerback.
When asked on Tuesday what made Moore the better candidate to play over Dowling in Week 2, defensive coordinator Matt Patricia explained that the decision was made related to what the Cardinals do on offense.
"I would say every week we just try to put together the best game plan we can depending on what the opponent does," he said. "All of our players are multiple role players, so everyone’s ready to go at any time and play different positions out on the field. For us, it’s just having everybody ready to go and putting the proper people on the field in the situation."
In a follow-up question, it was posed to Patricia what Dowling can do better to re-emerge after being shut out from playing time in Week 2. Patricia kept the focus of his answer on the defense as whole.
"With all of our guys, what we’re looking for from everybody is just to – in the stage we’re at as a defense right now as a defense as a whole – we’re just trying to get better every day, work on our fundamentals and try to improve. As a defense, that’s just what we’re trying to do."
Patricia did not seem to believe that a hip injury that cost Dowling most of his rookie season in 2011 is a factor that is limiting him this season.
"Each season is a new season, so we’re really just focused on this year and what we’re trying to get done and improve overall as a defense. Everyone’s out there just trying to get better," he said.
Despite the lack of playing time, head coach Bill Belichick says Dowling is far ahead from where he was as a player last season.
"Way ahead of last year, no question about that," he said. "Had a good offseason, had a good training camp, had an opportunity to get a lot of playing time in the preseason games. I think he’s a lot farther along than he was at any point last season. Ras-I is a real smart kid, he learns very quickly and he studies hard, he’s well prepared. He’s worked hard on his technique and our different coverage schemes. I think he’s definitely making progress. He’s way ahead of where he was last year."