(Continuing a month-long series analyzing players who are on the roster bubble and where they may potentially fit in 2013.)
NAME: Ras-I Dowling
2012 STATS: 7 games (0 starts), 7 tackles, 1 pass defensed
INJURY STATUS: No known injuries.
CHANCE OF MAKING 53-MAN ROSTER: 70%
WHY HE SHOULD MAKE IT: If presumptive starter Alfonzo Dennard misses any time (or is released) as a result of his arrest earlier this month, Dowling could stand to benefit the most, from a purely football standpoint. Entering his third season, Dowling stayed healthy throughout OTAs and minicamp, which would put him on track to cure the biggest ill from his first two seasons: his durability. If Dennard is out of the picture, even if it's just to begin the season, Dowling could go from teetering on his final days in New England to locking up a starting role. When training camp begins next week, he'll be one of the top players to watch.
WHY HE SHOULD NOT MAKE IT: Even with Dennard's arrest, the Patriots still are deep in their secondary. There are as many as six safeties with strong chances to make the roster, while the Patriots have invested a third-round pick (Logan Ryan) and a four-year contract (Kyle Arrington) at cornerback behind Dennard and Aqib Talib. Just by default, that could leave Dowling on the outside looking in, especially if he needs to compete against a potentially superior special teams player (i.e. Marquice Cole) for a back-end roster spot.
CLOSEST COMPETITION: CB Marquice Cole, S Nate Ebner, CB Alfonzo Dennard