New England Patriots solid, second-year No. 2 cornerback Alfonzo Dennard had a key role coming into this week’s big Monday Night Football matchup against the Carolina Panthers, because the Patriots needed Dennard to take care of business against Brandon LaFell. The Patriots main goal each week is to take away the opposition’s best receiver (Steve Smith, in the Panthers case, though the argument can be made that Greg Olsen is more of the focal point of the Panthers offense), which has left them vulnerable against No. 2 receivers. Whereas they have shut down No. 1 guys this season thanks to Aqib Talib (and Dennard when Talib was out), they have struggled mightily against No. 2 guys. In fact, Football Outsiders has the Patriots as the best team in the league against No. 1 WRs but also as the worst team in the league against No. 2 wideouts.
While the Patriots have a great top three at corner (Talib, Dennard, and Kyle Arrington), they lack depth and put their No. 2 receiver at a disadvantage due to their proclivity towards gearing things against the No. 1 wideout. That’s why it’s such a blow to see the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe report that Alfonzo Dennard has been ruled out against the Panthers.
It’s a tough loss for the Patriots, who have dealt with far too many injuries this season. I mean, they are already coming into this game without starting strong safety Steve Gregory, and Aqib Talib is finally making his return to the starting lineup after being out since sustaining a hip injury in Week 6. Dennard was a surprise absence at practice today, which means that he has incurred a new injury.