The first pick of the second round of the 2011 draft may very well be the best cornerback on the Patriots' roster. Standing at a towering 6'1'' and weighing nearly 200 lbs, Dowling brings a valuable combination of size and speed (ran a 4.46 at the 2011 NFL combine) to the Patriots cornerback crop.
In an interview with ESPNboston.com, Virginia cornerbacks coach Chip West had nothing but praise for the young talented cornerback:
"I saw a really good football player, coming off a good, solid junior year. Selfishly, I was hoping he would come back [for his senior season]. I saw a good player who possessed good man coverage skills. With the size Ras-I has, one thing I'm not sure people understand is the type of movements he has. He moves fluently and possesses a unique skill set for a player that size."
Many fans may not remember Ras-I Dowling from the 2011 season, as he suffered a hip injury in a Week 2 matchup against the San Diego Chargers and was subsequently put on injured reserve.
However, it should not go unnoticed that prior to his injury, Dowling performed at a high level throughout preseason and beat out veterans Leigh Bodden and Kyle Arrington for the starting gig opposite Devin McCourty.
The only knock on Dowling is that he is injury-prone, which may be an unfair inference as he really only had one injury-plagued season in college in 2010. When asked about Dowling's durability, Virginia cornerbacks coach Chip West replied:
"I've never known Ras-I to miss a lot of games because of injury other than this past year [2010 season]."
Unfortunately, Dowling did end up on injured reserve his rookie season in the NFL, but with a locked-out offseason, injuries weren't uncommon across the league. In hope of decreasing the chances of re-injury, Dowling had "clean up" surgery this offseason and has reportedly remained in the area this offseason and is rehabbing at Gillette Stadium daily making great strides in his recovery.
Dowling's size, speed and man-coverage skills set him up nicely to succeed at the cornerback position in the NFL. Having had all last season to be focused solely on his playbook and film study, and now on the brink of being at full health, Dowling is primed for a breakout performance in the 2012 season.
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