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Dennard sentencing set for Thursday

A sentencing is scheduled to take place on Thursday for Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard stemming from an April 2012 incident. The 23-year-old was found guilty of assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest in Lincoln, Neb., last year, and faces a maximum of six years in prison.

Without diving any deeper into the legal aspect of the situation, it’s clear that Dennard’s status going forward is critical to the Patriots’ future planning.

If Dennard faces jail time that will cause him to miss an extended period during the 2013 season or beyond, the Patriots’ need for a cornerback increases substantially. Dennard rose to a starting role during his rookie season in 2012, a spot he projects to remain in if he is back on the field to start the 2013 season.

Let’s lay out the projected depth chart at cornerback at this time, including Dennard.

1. Aqib Talib
2. Alfonzo Dennard
3. Kyle Arrington
4. Marquice Cole/Ras-I Dowling
5. Malcolm Williams

The signing of Arrington was important given his past contributions as both a perimeter and slot cornerback for the team, and losing Dennard for any period of time could thrust Arrington back into a starting role. While he was effective in filling in for Talib during the AFC Championship game, Arrington’s earlier struggles in 2012 suggest that his best role is as a third cornerback.

The feeling here is that regardless of the outcome of Dennard’s hearing, cornerback will still be a top priority for the Patriots in the draft. Talib will be a free agent next offseason, and though it’s clear the team values him, if another deal cannot be struck than the depth will be depleted again.

Adding a young defensive back into the fold would provide the team with a player to develop. While the Patriots' recent track record of cornerbacks drafted has been inconsistent, the team has also had success in such players as Dennard, Devin McCourty and Asante Samuel years back.

With a draft class that appears to offer several options for cornerbacks in the top two rounds, the Patriots will likely be taking a hard look at the available prospects.

If Dennard faces jail time -- minimal or extended -- the need for a cornerback will only increase.