In the third of a series on Patriots 2011 draft choices, ESPNBoston.com speaks with Virginia cornerbacks coach Chip West about New England second-round pick Ras-I Dowling:
• How would you characterize Ras-I as a cornerback?: "I would say 'big' and 'physical'. He goes at it hard. He likes to play a physical brand of corner.”
• Is there a comparison to an NFL player that comes to mind?: "I'm an old-school guy, so I think more about some of the older guys. Eric Allen comes to mind, from his time with Philadelphia."
• What were some of the biggest questions NFL coaches and scouts had for you on Ras-I?: "Most of it was about durability. I've never known Ras-I to miss a lot of games because of injury other than this past year. It's not his fault he got hurt. He's a competitor, a good player, and most of all, in my opinion, a great, great young man. As far as a person who people will love and take a liking to, he's that example."
• What were your first impressions of working with Ras-I in your first year on staff in 2010?: "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 [6-foot-2, 200 pounds], 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."
• Even though this was your first year on staff, how would you compare and contrast Ras-I to his former teammate Chris Cook, a second-round pick of the Vikings in 2010?: "Some people think their styles are similar, some think it's drastically different. I didn't spend a lot of time with Chris. I always thought Chris was physical, and I also feel that Ras-I is very physical. We play a lot of man-coverage at the line of scrimmage, asking our corners to bump-and-run, get in the receiver's face. We challenged our corners."
• What did you notice about the way he handled his injury-filled 2010 season?: "He kept his faith going and understood that all he could do was get better, and try to get back on the field. His spirits were always up. He was always upbeat."
• How much did you notice the role faith played in his life?: "I definitely noticed it. The one thing I could say about Ras-I is that he lives it. Some coaches will tell you 'He won't get you fired -- on and off the field.' I definitely feel that way about Ras-I. He is strong as far as spirituality. Everybody tries to do the right thing, and he lives that every day."
• What might New England followers not know about Ras-I that would interest them?: "He's a very special young man. Obviously the Patriots saw what they needed to see as far as the player, and with that, I think the biggest selling point is that you couldn't get a better person. Flat out, you just couldn't get a better person. He's a very coachable young man who I like a lot. He's very special."