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Dowling's return brings positive impact to Patriots' secondary

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By Kevin Fishbain

With an improvement in pass defense needed after the 2010 season, the Patriots figured they found their starting corner opposite Devin McCourty in the form of Ras-I Dowling, the 33rd pick of the ’11 draft. Even though he missed time in training camp and the preseason with injuries, he started the first two games before suffering a season-ending leg injury, and he had hip surgery in December. Dowling is finally healthy and in his first full offseason, and we hear that ideally, Dowling will start at the right corner spot opposite McCourty in a secondary that, like last offseason, still needs to improve. The team's confidence in Dowling was illustrated by its decision to thrust him into the starting role as a rookie. Kyle Arrington, who tied for the league lead with seven interceptions last season, would move to the slot if Dowling nails down the outside starting job. We heard from one source last year that despite Arrington’s success, the secondary would be at its best if he wasn’t in a prominent role on the outside. Staying healthy is key for Dowling, but he showed the size and ball skills in college that would improve the Patriots’ pass defense.

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