Let this be a lesson to myself: take advantage of the quiet times in the NFL. Because when a story breaks about your team when it's not supposed to, there's at least a 50% chance that it's going to be about something you don't want to hear.
With the recent news that Alfonzo Dennard was found guilty of felony assault and faces a maximum sentence of five years in jail, there seems to be something of a sense of unrest regarding the state of the Patriots secondary. With Dennard's future now in doubt, the possibility exists that the team will be heading into the 2013 season without three of their four starting corners. Add to this all of the other questions surrounding possible Patriots free agents, and Hank - who I thought had gone into hibernation for the year - came screaming out of my subconscious like an old man who sat on a needle. He's out in full force, completely panicking over the secondary, and to be honest the month of February sucks enough without him yelling in my ear all the time. So I thought I would take a minute this afternoon and do what I do best: tell him to shut up.
But Alec, Alfonzo Dennard was found guilty! He's going to jail! Roger Goodell is going to suspend him!
Shut up, Hank. The way people are talking around here, you'd think that Dennard blew up an animal shelter on his way to bombing an orphanage. He was drunk, things got a little rowdy, and there was an altercation with a police officer. Now maybe it's just me, but I wouldn't rank his little transgression all that high on my All-Time NFL Screwups list. Dennard assaulted an officer, which is a huge no-no, but he has no priors, people always speak highly of him, and he has shown tremendous maturity during his first year in the NFL. Furthermore, the prosecution isn't even recommending a sentence here, which means that odds are that Dennard will get probation or at worst a few months in jail. Should he get jail time, I see no reason why he can't delay his service until next February, or possibly even break it up (as other pro athletes have done in the past). To be honest, the only way I see Dennard missing any games in 2013 is if the NFL suspends him. I really don't know how that would work, to be honest, as it happened before he was in the league, but I guess Goodell could make an example out of him. So, he sits out a few games, then he comes back. The Pats have dealt with worse. And honestly, the absolute worst case scenario is that the Patriots got a very solid year of production out of a seventh round pick, which is more than most teams can say.
But Alec, Aqib Talib is a slacker! The Patriots aren't going to re-sign him and he's going to walk! We're going to be right back where we were and with one less draft pick to show for it!
Shut up, Hank. What in the world are you basing that on? That one article from "sources" that said the Patriots questioned Talib's work ethic? Do you refuse to even entertain the notion that it may have been a bit of leverage positioning as the two teams prepare to enter into contract negotiations? Like them or not, it's fairly rare that a player leaves the Patriots due to character/work ethic issues and ends up finding success on another team; the general attitude around the NFL is that if you can't hack it in New England, you can't hack it anywhere. What has transpired over the past few weeks has been nothing but a bargaining chip, in my opinion; let's at least let the two sides start actually having a conversation before we all go screaming for the hills. I think Talib will be back.
But Alec, Kyle Arrington is a free agent too! Who is going to cover the slot with him gone?
Shut up, Hank. I actually found myself asking at times who was going to cover the slot even when Arrington was in the game. Arrington had a career year in 2011, but fell off a bit last year and was inconsistent at best. I'd like to keep Arrington when all is said and done, but if he walks, I'm not going to lose any sleep over it. The same goes for Pat Chung and Marquice Cole; and while I'd definitely rank Arrington higher than those two, I don't see losing him as this massive, crippling blow. Arrington can likely be had for relatively cheap, and so if the Patriots let him go, I feel safe saying they have a contingency plan in place.
But Alec, what if all of our defensive backs walk? What are we going to do for a secondary? We're screwed!
Shut up, Hank. Do you honestly think that Bill Belichick will let every single defensive back currently on the roster leave the team and then do absolutely nothing to address it? Do you think he'll just be sitting in his office saying, "welp...that sucks. Oh well. Let's see if Troy Brown is available."? Come on; the secondary is a priority, and if we all know it, then the coaching staff knows it as well. But I'll humor you for a minute; let's say you're right. Let's say that they don't address their secondary at all. Let's say they let every single free agent walk and do absolutely nothing to sign available players. And let's even say they and draft all offense come April and, as soon as Ras-I Dowling goes on IR again after pulling a hammy in preseason, our secondary consists of Devin McCourty and Tavon Wilson with Steve Gregory and Nate Ebner back there at safety, with Matthew Slater as the nickel corner. Let's assume that all of that happens. You know what? Even then, I still like their chances to go deep in the playoffs. They were a Wes Welker drop away from winning the Super Bowl two years ago with a crap secondary that included Julian Edelman and a nonexistent pass rush; at least the pass rush has improved and the front seven is better than they were in 2011. New England would win a lot of games 42-40 and still be in the conversation somehow come January. So relax. Free Agency hasn't even started yet and you're immediately assuming the Patriots are going to just stand by and do nothing. Get it together.