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Words With Frenz mailbag: Alfonzo Dennard ruling and the finishing touches on the Patriots defense

Posted by Erik Frenz  April 12, 2013 07:00 AM

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With less than two weeks to go to the 2013 NFL draft, there's no shortage of major news to talk about.

There's already a light at the end of the tunnel as we near the end of the roster-building portion of the 2013 offseason.

So, let's get right to the questions in this week's mailbag.

Shalise Manza Young reported that Alfonzo Dennard was given 24 months of probation, a 30-day jail sentence to be served next March, and 100 hours of “law enforcement-related” community service.

As Greg Bedard pointed out awhile back, the 2012 Personal Conduct Policy clearly indicates that Dennard is not subject to league suspension because he was not yet part of the NFL when the incident took place:

Covered Persons – This policy applies to all players under contract; all coaches; all game officials; all full-time employees of the NFL, NFL clubs, and all NFL-related entities; all rookie players once they are selected in the NFL college draft; and all undrafted rookie players, unsigned veterans who were under contract in the prior League Year...

If NFL commissioner Roger Goodell tries to impose a suspension on Dennard, he can expect the NFLPA to fight back on the suspension, and another appearance in court for Goodell would not be a good look.

In terms of free agent signings, Kyle, the Patriots might be just about done with big splashes. With the signings of defensive tackle Tommy Kelly and the $2.5 million offer sheet on the table for wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, the Patriots have around $6.7 million in cap space according to the NFLPA.

They could restructure some contracts to open more space up — Vince Wilfork and Logan Mankins come to mind for their heavy cap hits of $10.6 million and $10 million respectfully, but they need to save a good portion of that for their 2013 draft picks, as well.

Warmack has great feet and would be a good fit for the zone-blocking scheme, but there isn't a better linemen at pulling both directions and delivering vicious blocks in space than guard Jonathan Cooper.

Either way, your question is a good one.

I've seen Cooper mocked as high as No. 8 to the Bills, and two of CBS Sports' four mock draft experts had him in the top 10. A third had Warmack at No. 8, as well.

A guard may be the best overall player at No. 9, but the bigger question is, can a guard have a big impact on a team? That's why Cooper is the more intriguing prospect; he can allow you to do so much more in terms of pulling on screens and stretch runs, and is still a bulldozer as a lead blocker in the running game.

In theory, the answer to this should be simple: take the best player on the board and find a way to use him.

Good question, Joseph, because the Dolphins could still use some depth in the backfield. With Reggie Bush out the door, the workload is expected to be given to the team's second- and fourth-round picks at running back over the past two years. That investment does nothing to mitigate the possibility that they'll draft a running back. It's a position of need and the Dolphins know it.

Daniel Thomas was Bush's primary backup, but missed time with injuries, mainly two concussions. He averaged just 3.6 YPA on 91 carries last year.

Lamar Miller has a similar skill set to Bush, but he hardly even played, with just 146 snaps all season. He showed some big play potential by averaging 4.9 YPA, but he remains untested in the NFL. They might trust him, I have no idea, but even if they do, they should want to have insurance and Thomas isn't it.

Montee Ball shares many similar attributes to Thomas: he is mainly a between-the-tackles runner, lacks great breakaway speed, hits the hole decisively and had a nose for the end zone in college. The question then would be whether Ball is an upgrade over Thomas.

Ball's career will likely draw comparisons to BenJarvus Green-Ellis as a dependable and solid but unspectacular back. That, to me, is worthy of a third-round pick.

Got room for one more.

The Patriots have to know their defense needs to improve in those areas.

patriots LBs in coverage.pngThey ranked 23rd and 29th against running backs and tight ends out of the backfield according to Football Outsiders, and a look at the numbers from ProFootballFocus.com reveals the same thing: struggles in coverage at linebacker.

Dane Fletcher's primary role was in coverage; he spent 256 of his 470 defensive snaps from 2010 through 2011 as a cover linebacker. That being said, they weren't much better against running backs and tight ends in those years, either.

Adrian Wilson was taken off the field in some sub packages last year, but he pointed out it may not have had so much to do with him losing his abilities in coverage as other factors.

"The situation last year was strictly a coaches’ decision," he said. "I don’t think that had anything to do with me losing a step, but obviously nobody gets younger. ...It was something I had to deal with and I dealt with and I continued to practice hard and just kept trying to encourage the guys and keep moving forward."

By the numbers, Wilson didn't struggle that much. He allowed 12 completions on 27 throws into his coverage (44.4 percent) and two touchdowns with one interception and two pass break-ups according to ProFootballFocus.com.

If he can bring those numbers with him to New England, the Patriots defense could have an answer to its woes of recent years.

Thanks for the questions, everyone! Further queries can be directed to me on Twitter.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Erik Frenz delivers analysis of the biggest news with the Patriots, including insight into the AFC East and New England's biggest rivals from a Patriots perspective. Erik is an interactive writer who engages his audience in his posts’ comments sections and on Twitter. Readers are encouraged to share their thoughts and ask questions. More »


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