NEPD Staff Writer: Oliver Thomas
After his July 11 arrest, there was grave uncertainty surrounding New England Patriots second-year cornerback Alfonzo Dennard. His availability – let alone his future with the Patriots organization – appeared to be in doubt. But once July 26 rolled around, the 5’10”, 200-pounder was in Foxborough, Mass., participating in the first full day of Patriots training camp.
During that rainy Friday practice, Dennard saw re-signed vet Kyle Arrington manning the right cornerback spot that he excelled from as a rookie. The 23-year-old did filter in on the outside, but he primarily lined up in the slot during three-receiver sets. It was a quiet first day of camp for No. 37.
Day two of camp wasn’t.
Under sunny and dry conditions of the July 27 practice, Dennard saw most of his reps in the base defense. And while he did see snaps at nickelback, the outside is where the Nebraska Cornhusker drew most of his sweat.
He also drew praise.
Facing fourth-round draft choice Josh Boyce during 7-on-7 work, Dennard shaded the rookie all the way down the right sideline. When backup quarterback Ryan Mallett launched a pass deep in his direction, Dennard redirected his weight and return to the football.
In doing so, the defensive back eclipsed the 5’11”, 205-pound Boyce and hauled in a highlight-reel interception as he fell on his back.
That momentum continued when Dennard squared up against rookie second-round choice Aaron Dobson during the team period.
Despite the imposing size of the 6’3”, 200-pound Marshall product, the stocky Dennard didn’t look overmatched. As Dobson ran a fade down the left sideline, quarterback Tom Brady released a missile. At first glance, Dennard looked a step behind. But as the pass closed in, he left his feet and batted the ball of the target’s hands.
It was a loud incompletion. You could even see free safety Devin McCourty crack a big smile as he went over to congratulate his teammate.
When practice drew to a close with some 11-on-11, Dennard cemented himself as the day’s defensive standout. Across from the 6’4”, 215-pound Michael Jenkins, Dennard found himself in a footrace outside the numbers. Mallett dropped back and delivered a well-placed down the right side of the field.
It landed right in Jenkins grasp. Yet within another stride, Dennard regained his pace and stripped out what first seemed to be a definitive reception.
The crowd erupted.
Throughout his second practice of camp, Dennard found a way to disrupt the deep ball. He was aggressive against receivers and contested everything thrown his way downfield. He showed body control during his pick versus Boyce. He showed heavy hands during his breakup versus Dobson. And he showed recovery speed versus Jenkins.
Considering the tumultuous month Dennard has had away from the field, he didn’t look fazed on the field Saturday. He looked focused on retaining his gig on the outside opposite Aqib Talib.
For him, the present is football.