Alfonzo Dennard returns as Patriots secondary starts to take form
|07.29.14 at 2:26 pm ET|
FOXBORO — After not practicing with the Patriots for the first four days of training camp and being on the PUP list, cornerback Alfonzo Dennard practiced with the Patriots on Tuesday morning, albeit on a limited basis. He was in pads with the team for the first time since the end of last season as the 24-year-old was recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.
The University of Nebraska product, who has played two seasons and 23 games in the NFL, was limited as he participated in one-on-one drills, but not 7-on-7s or 11-on-11s. Once practice really got going with an emphasis on physical drills, Dennard was off to the side doing sprints and other agility work with a strength and conditioning coach.
Regardless of how much he participated, it was a good sign to have him back on the field.
“It’s good because we all know he is a good player,” safety Duron Harmon said. “I am more worried about him being healthy. He’s a good player, so anytime you get a good player back it’s good.”
It is a crowded Patriots secondary with a number of skilled players battling for playing time. The group includes newcomers Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, who are highly skilled players but are new to the team, so it will take some time for the group as a whole to to jell as one cohesive unit. Getting Dennard back on the field certainly helps that advancement.
“It’s a work in progress,” Harmon said. “We’re just getting better each and every day. We’re dealing with new people so we have to feel out each other, know where they are going to be at and when they are going to be there. Like I said, it is a work in progress, something that we have to continue to get better at each and every day.”
Unlike past years when the team has been forced to use wide receivers Julian Edelman and Troy Brown in the secondary, this year’s team has a lot of depth at the position, meaning the Patriots do not need to think about rushing Dennard back and can take their time with getting him back to full strength.
Dennard has showcased his skills on the field with four career interceptions and 16 career starts, which could give him the upper hand over a few other members of the secondary when it comes to playing time. With Browner suspended for the first four games of the season, Dennard, if healthy, could have the inside track to starting on the opposite side of Revis at cornerback in the first quarter of the season.
Even though the cornerback didn’t come close to any physical action Tuesday, it was a big step in the right direction as the members of the Patriots secondary continue to get to know one another with the hope of being one of the best secondaries in the league.