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Alfonzo Dennard was top tier talent, available in round seven.
Last year, the Patriots ranked 31st in pass yards allowed. Clearly, the Patriots front office wanted to change that trend this offseason by signing both veteran free agents and young prospects.
In March, the Pats signed ex-San Diego Charger safety Steve Gregory and former Miami Dolphins cornerback Will Allen. These signings wont put a whole lot of fans in the seats of Gillette Stadium, but there's something to be said for experience in the defensive backfield.
Gregory started 13 games for the Chargers in 2011, racking up 67 tackles and an interception for a touchdown. The 29-year-old can play safety, in the slot and also special teams.
"Gregory is capable of filling a variety of roles in the secondary, which will help a Patriots secondary that featured a pair of wide receivers at times last season," Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald said.
As for Allen, the 11-year pro has 15 career picks and started six games last year for Miami. At age 33, his prime is long gone, but he still adds reliable depth to the back end of the cornerback depth chart.
Aside from subtle offseason moves, the Patriots also smoothed over the secondary via the draft in selecting Illinois safety Tavon Wilson in Round 2 and Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard in Round 7.
Wilson's waters were relatively uncharted by other NFL teams, but New England took a chance on the Fighting Illini safety early. The 6'0", 205-pound Wilson can play anywhere: cornerback, in the slot, safety or special teams. His role flexibility will give him a great chance to play as a rookie.
"He's a good kid, and he's going to work hard, so you can rely on that," NESN's Jeff Howe said.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Dennard. The cornhusker DB could have been a first-, second-, or even third-rounder. However, just days before the draft, he allegedly punched a police officer and his stock plummeted. Nonetheless, Bill Belichick is one for taking on challenges.
"Dennard is a good player, no doubt," Howe said. "He wasn't the Big Ten's defensive back of the year by accident, but he's going to have to mature to earn a starting job. I don't mean that in an off-the-field sense, either. Dennard plays the game with a tough and physical mentality, and that's great, but he's going to have to be smarter with that style at the NFL level."
After the improvements New England has made in the secondary this offseason, don't anticipate Julian Edelman and Matt Slater to be playing much defense in 2012.