3rd Year WR is making a case for himself
On Sunday morning, the play of the day for the Patriots 4th practice belonged to Aaron Dobson. He streaked down the right sideline during 11-on-11 drills with Malcolm Butler in tight coverage. QB Tom Brady arced a deep ball that it seemed that Butler had the better position on to intercept it.
But Dobson leapt up and pulling the contested ball down and made a fantastic play hauling it in as both players tumbled to the ground. This is the type of play that will not only win a player a roster spot but earn the trust of Brady. This is the Aaron Dobson that was missing last year.
Dobson is locked in a roster battle with Brian Tyms, Brandon Gibson and Josh Boyce for the 4th wide receiver position on the team. The top three, Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell and Danny Amendola are locked in and were successful especially down the stretch and into the playoffs.
Dobson after a good rookie campaign of 2013 where he caught 37 passes for 519 yards suffered a foot injury that required surgery in the offseason. He missed all of the spring OTAs and mini-camp. He also was absent for nearly all of training camp, finally making an appearance on the final day.
So not only was has conditioning not where it should have been, his skills were rusty and most importantly he missed a golden opportunity to work on his chemistry with Brady. In his stead, newcomer LaFell got a ton of reps and became a trusted member of the offense.
Dobson only played in four games and had 3 catches for 38 yards before blowing out a hamstring in Green Bay ending his sophomore season that truly never began.
“Last season was last year, this is a new year, so I’m just trying to do my best this year,” he told the media after Sunday’s practice.
Here is the video we took of Dobson’s catch on Sunday:
Now the tables have turned somewhat, and LaFell hasn’t been to practice yet, being on PUP and Dobson, feeling the pressure to perform, has been getting a ton of first reps and has had an impressive start.
“I feel that the longer you’re in a system, the more comfortable you’re going to get,” he said. “The more repetitions you get, the more comfortable you get. This is my third year being in the offense, so I’m just getting more comfortable as time goes on.”
Dobson knows that it is just a first, albeit important step and that being a trusted member of the offense with Brady means you’ll see the ball much more, especially at crunch time and in key situations.
“It takes time,” Dobson said. “Just being out here, gaining his trust, just out here making plays. Play after play. I’ve got to make a play for him to trust me.”
Dobson rededicated himself to coming in to this season in the best possible shape and spent the offseason working out in Arizona with Devin McCourty and former teammate Darrelle Revis. Not only getting in tip-top shape, but working against two of the better defensive players out there, has gotten him much more prepared for the competition this summer.
“We did a lot of work out there, so I feel like it benefited me a lot,” Dobson said.
So instead of watching from the sidelines, Dobson is out there working, and competing daily. He knows he has to keep making plays like the one of Sunday and has been doing just that. On Saturday he had a couple of big plays as well, catching a Brady pass in the corner of the end zone. He again out-jumped the athletic rookie corner Darryl Roberts and was able to haul in the contested pass. He added another similar play over Jimmy Jean later in practice.
These are the kind of plays that get the attention of Brady and the coaching staff. Right now Dobson is ahead of Tyms, Gibson and Boyce. But it is still early in camp and there is a long way to go. The best way for him to keep the other players at bay is to keep making plays and contesting everything thrown his way.
One interesting aspect of the camp thus far is that when the team goes into a Special Teams period, Brady works on some goal line work with the Twin Towers, (TEs Rob Gronkowski and Scott Chandler), as well as Julian Edelman. Dobson took part in some of those last week.
His presence gives Brady another big (6’3, 210) target along with the 6’7 Chandler and the 6’6 Gronk in the red zone that will give him plenty of options. Edelman remains the shifty tough to cover wide receiver that will greatly benefit having the big men drawing plenty of attention from opposing defenses.
Dobson also brings in the extra element in that he has the ability to stretch the field both vertically and horizontally that the offense needs. With LaFell, Amendola and Edelman, the Patriots offense with the short to medium passing game is set. Gronkowski and Chandler can provide safety outlets and attack the seams. A healthy and confident Dobson can add an extra element to the offense that just makes a defensive coordinator’s job that much harder.
All it takes is hard work…and what do the coaches think? Back in June during mini-camp Tom E. Curran from Comcast Sports New England asked OC Josh McDaniels what to expect from Dobson this season after that injury plagued 2014.
“I know this,” McDaniels told Curran. “I am excited about him.”
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