Patriots believe Dowling could improve third-down 'D'

Posted May 24, 2011 @ 2:33 p.m.
Posted By Kevin Fishbain

Patriots fans were surprised when the team passed on multiple opportunities to draft a pass-rushing defensive end or outside linebacker. Much of the reason for the pleas for an edge rusher comes because an upgrade could improve the team's third-down defense, which ranked last in 2010. At pick No. 33, the Patriots could have taken Arizona OLB Brooks Reed or Pittsburgh DE Jabaal Sheard, but they made a potential improvement to their third-down defense by drafting Virginia CB Ras-I Dowling, who had first-round grades before an injury-plagued senior season. The physical corner has good ball skills and could help improve this disturbing stat: On third down last season, the Patriots gave up 74 first downs through the air, one fewer than the league-worst 75 the Seahawks and Titans allowed. Dowling might not necessarily play inside in the nickel package, but his physicality should allow him to compete with Darius Butler, Kyle Arrington or Jonathan Wilhite for playing time on third down alongside Devin McCourty and Leigh Bodden.