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Friday, September 30, 2011
Target practice: How corners have fared

By Chris Forsberg

Tom Szczerbowski/Getty ImagesKyle Arrington on the field last week vs. the Buffalo Bills.
The Patriots trekked to Oakland Friday with three of their top four cornerbacks listed as questionable on the final injury report of the week. Beyond second-year starter Devin McCourty, the secondary as a whole is banged up. Maybe most concerning is rookie Ras-I Dowling, who didn't play last week in Buffalo (he tried to warm-up, but didn't look comfortable) and sat out Friday's final practice of the week. What's more, Leigh Bodden (groin previously hand) and Kyle Arrington (chest previously concussion) emerged from that Buffalo game with new injuries and both were limited all three days in practice this week.

Despite all the injuries -- and without Dowling last week -- the Patriots managed to limit the playing time of depth corners Antwaun Molden (one snap) and Phillip Adams (active, but did not play) in Buffalo.

Everyone knows the Patriots' secondary has been gouged for a league-worst 377 passing yards per game this season, but how are the corners faring individually? Here's a glimpse at the numbers logged by analytical site Pro Football Focus:

Devin McCourty - 36 targets, 24 receptions (66%), 378 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT, 129.2 QB rating
Ras-I Dowling - 7 targets, 3 receptions (42.9%), 74 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, 81.8 QB rating
Kyle Arrington - 13 targets, 5 receptions (38.5%), 79 yards, 0 TD, 3 INT, 19.9 QB rating
Leigh Bodden - 16 targets, 10 receptions (62.5%), 176 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 120.8 QB rating

Arrington has clearly benefited from playing the nickel corner, but the numbers suggest he might actually deserve another shot at the starting gig he held down much of last season while Bodden was on injured reserve (and Darius Butler underperformed). To be fair, Arrington struggled at times last year, giving up 49 catches on 75 targets (65.3 percent) for 742 yards. In fact, on passes in his direction last season, opposing signal-callers had a 114.4 QB rating with a 5:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. As one might expect, the outside corners typically face a stiffer challenge than the nickel corner.