Alfonzo Dennard is finally meeting expectations.
After a rocky start to his first and second seasons in the NFL—Dennard ran into issues with the law during each offseason—the former Nebraska Cornusker is playing his best football with the New England Patriots.
Aqib Talib has stolen most of the headlines due to his incredible play this season, but Dennard has been up to the challenge on the other side of the field.
Here is a look at two plays from Dennard's masterful performance—he held Marques Colston to one catch—against the New Orleans Saints.
The Patriots had the Saints backed up in a 3rd-and-20 late in the fourth quarter. Dennard lined up across from Kenny Stills and the Patriots showed a Cover 2, man-under look. Safety Steve Gregory was responsible for Dennard's half of the field.
Dennard opened up his hips and kept outside leverage, keeping Stills inside and closer to his deep help. Gregory had his eyes on both the middle seam—as Kyle Arrington looked like he might get beat—and Stills outside.
Dennard was in-phase and pushing Stills to his deep help. Saints quarterback Drew Brees did a great job manipulating Gregory here, staring down the seam and making Gregory take a fatal false step to the inside.
Gregory was too late getting over the top and Dennard barely missed swatting the ball away after slightly mistiming his jump. Dennard might get singled out as the one that got burned, but it is hard to fault his technique or play here.
The Patriots were in Cover 1 here with Dennard matched up against Colston. Devin McCourty was matched up on Jimmy Graham with Duron Harmon playing the single-high safety.
Dennard unleashed a textbook jam, using his outside arm to re-route Colston inside. He hit with such force and angle that Colston was lifted off-balance and was essentially done before his route had even started. Brees was looking at Colston first and had to move to a secondary read.
Dennard had effectively walled Colston off from the outside, keeping him inside where his help was. He was also able to read Brees' eyes and notice him ready to throw to the opposite side of the field.
Dennard left Colston and started his way across the field to pursue the potential pass-catcher just as Chandler Jones hit Brees from behind—a sack that never happens if Dennard doesn't get the initial jam.