Shifting our attention now to the secondary, where we continue our positional review with the cornerbacks.
Key Statistics: Talib: 19 tackles, 1 INT, 2 pass breakups in 6 games played; Dennard: 35 tackles, 3 INTs, 1 forced fumble in 10 games played; Arrington: 74 tackles, 1 forced fumble in 16 games played
Overview: The Patriots' secondary was once again the target of criticism in 2012, and the cornerback position underwent its share of shuffling. The year began with Arrington and Devin McCourty as the starters, but early struggles and injuries at safety eventually propelled McCourty there. Upon Aqib Talib's arrival at the trade deadline, he joined Dennard to comprise the new starting pair, with Arrington as the slot cornerback in sub packages. Talib gave the Patriots their best cover cornerback; he is a reactive athlete with good ball skills. Dennard proved to be a shrewd seventh-round investment. Arrington had an up-and-down season after securing seven interceptions in 2011, and now enters free agency. The secondary was almost two different groups in 2012, as the post-Talib trade version was able to cut down on big plays and enhance the defense's ability to blitz up front. It wasn't perfect, but strides were made.
2013 Personnel Preview: Questions abound at cornerback, as Talib, Arrington, Cole and Martin are all set to become free agents. The first domino to fall is likely what the team does with Talib, as he could be in line for a handsome payday on the open market. Bill Belichick has spoken highly of Talib, but it's too early to know what will happen. The group under contract includes Dennard, Williams and Dowling, who missed extended time again due to an injury. His development is critical in 2013.