Big Decision: Start Dennard at CB?

October, 20, 2012
10/20/12
2:00
PM ET
The day before each game this season, this space will feature one big decision facing Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and his staff, in terms of the game plan.

This week's decision: Should Kyle Arrington or Alfonzo Dennard start at cornerback?

JetsPatriotsIn last Sunday's loss to the Seattle Seahawks, it took only two big catches by Seattle receiver Doug Baldwin before Arrington was benched in favor of Dennard in the first quarter.

Arrington eventually worked his way back into the game in sub packages, but Dennard remained alongside Devin McCourty as one of the top cornerbacks. Dennard allowed a touchdown to Braylon Edwards, but overall his stock has been rising since first seeing the field two weeks ago against the Denver Broncos.

So who gets the start on Sunday? Arrington had looked strong to start the season, but the Patriots will frequently give the nod to the hotter hand, which in this case is Dennard.

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Should Alfonzo Dennard or Kyle Arrington start at cornerback?

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Discuss (Total votes: 4,108)

The prevailing mentality, at least publicly, in the Patriots locker room is that no player can blame a drop in playing time on anyone but himself. But anyone who has been a part of an athletic team knows that resentment toward coaches in situations like these is common, if not natural.

Obviously, Arrington isn't the first player to have a bad game this season, especially in the secondary. Belichick's faith in McCourty has never seemed to waver despite some notable bad plays, and he has even vocally supported McCourty against outside criticism.

Does Arrington deserve the same treatment? During the 2001 season, Belichick ceremonially buried a football in the practice field to put a loss to the Miami Dolphins behind them. If Arrington starts Sunday against the New York Jets, it would show a willingness on Belichick's (and his coaching staff's) behalf to move on from the Seattle loss.

For the other players in the locker room, starting Arrington could send the message that their coach has their back, and that he will stick with them through the highs and lows of a long season.

If Dennard makes his first career start, the message could be that Belichick will do, as he often puts it, "whatever is best for the football team," and in what he has called a "production business," all that matters is what you are doing now, not in the past.

What do you think? What message would you send to your team? Join the discussion in the comments section below.

Mike Rodak

ESPN Buffalo Bills reporter

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