FOXBORO - Aaron Dobson is like the tide. Hitting a predictable high-water mark around the same time every season then gradually receding to a predictable low.
At least that’s how it’s seemingly gone for the first three seasons of the wideout’s NFL career. In truth, it’s not really been as bleak as we’ve all intimated it to be.
There have been bright spots for the 2013 second-rounder and there is upside to his game. But the combination of injuries, inconsistencies and annual drops into obscurity have obscured the very notion that anything he does between May and August should be taken seriously.
Saturday, Dobson was back at it again with the summertime fun making two terrific early-practice grabs on the first day in pads. That was a continuation of what he put out there in May and June when he looked nothing like the guy who pattycaked so many passes in 2015.
When the team’s key skill players broke off to a separate field midway through practice it was Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Rob Gronkowski, Martellus Bennett and Dobson working out.
Dobson knows the party line on him. He basically summarized what folks feel has been lacking with his game.
“I’m just trying to keep improving and stay consistent and show my teammates that I can stay consistent and dependable,” Dobson told me Friday.
We’ve done the Dobson Propaganda “This may be the year…” piece before. Like last summer when Josh McDaniels gushed about Dobson and we dutifully talked him up. It wasn’t without cause. The guy does things nobody else on the roster at the wideout position can do because of his height and leaping ability.
I asked Dobson if he’s yet shown the best of what he can do.
“I feel like I can play football,” he said. “It’s up to me to show my abilities to everybody. It’s hard to really say. For me, I’m just trying to get out and get better every day, every day, every practice.”
He couldn’t have envisioned this, though. Fourth season and still with some nitwit standing in front of him talking about his football mortality in New England.
“Going through what I’ve gone through has been difficult but you just have to stay grounded,” he said. “You can’t let it hold you back, you can’t let it keep you down, you can’t worry about the past, you just gotta worry about the future and what I can do to help myself.”
There are things beyond Dobson’s control that have intervened. A stress fracture in his foot in 2013 that bled over into 2014 when surgery was deleted then performed in the spring.
But there are things which seem preventable too that keep arising. Like the number of times Dobson is unable to catch the ball cleanly and double-catches the ball.
I asked him about that.
“You gotta let the ball in,” he said. “Regardless. When it comes to double-catching, you just gotta make the catch, when it comes to you.”
You hear the things he’s said before – all said with a self-deprecating smile. No ego. You see the things he can do in the air. And you think…this year?
Then you watch that drill with Brady and Garoppolo, Bennett and Gronkowski. And throw after throw, when Dobson could either catch the ball out front with his hands or let it come into his chest or cradle it into his stomach, he chooses the latter. The less safe, less polished, easier way to catch.
And you know the coda to this Dobson story like the ones in the past comes with the caveat, “we’ll see…”
Tom E. Curran can be followed on Twitter: @tomecurran
Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while knowing that “Saturdays are for the boys” no longer exists once you are married with kids…except during glorious bachelor party weekends, which are few and far between.
*Congrats to Patrick Williams, who was named the Ellery Award winner for his great coverage of all things at the AHL level. Well deserved, Pat!
*A really moving, heartbreaking and also life-affirming tribute from Bobby Ryan to his recently-passed mother after his childhood experience really forged a bond.
*The Tyson Barrie/Colorado Avalanche arbitration case has a chance to get messy, and that may be a very good thing for teams hoping a D-man suddenly becomes available.
*Some great stories about the hockey movies made over the last 30 years including Sudden Death, Mystery Alaska and Slap Shot.
*Kudos to Gabriel Landeskog, who has joined an organization attempting to advise athletes on recovery from concussions after his scary experiences.
*The focus of P.K. Subban’s philanthropy is on the kids, a thing made abundantly clear by his generous pledge to raise $10 million from a Montreal children’s hospital.
*Good piece by FOH (Friend of Haggs) Josh Cooper over at Yahoo! Sports on Murray Craven as a bit of an “Everything Man” for the new Las Vegas expansion franchise.
*For something completely different: what a great American and Patriot looks like, even if the Republicans and Trump don’t seem to think so.
Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 6-2 win over the Angels:
* “He just had very good command the entire night. Stayed ahead in the count [and] pitched to all quadrants of the strike zone. He used his four-seamer in on some powerful right-handed hitters in their lineup.” John Farrell on Rick Porcello’s performance.
* “We needed a win bad and swung the bats well and played good defense. That’s a big win for us.” Rick Porcello said after his win in an interview with NESN.
* “24 hours ago we were probably in a much different place mentally after a ball game like tonight.” Farrell on the win.
* “That was probably the first time I sat on off-speed pitches this whole year. I took a chance, took a gamble.” Jackie Bradley Jr. said on his home run.
* Rick Porcello completed his first game in a Red Sox uniform in the 6-2 win. The CG was the fifth of his career and his first since he threw three in 2014. The righty has 14 wins, one win shy of tying his career high.
* Xander Bogaerts had his first multi extra-base hit performance of the season since June 11. He’s only done that twice this season. He extended his hitting streak to 11 games.
* David Ortiz logged his 85th RBI of the season in the win and Mookie Betts his 67th. Heading into Friday night’s game, the two were one of five pairs of teammates ranking in the top 20 in RBI. The list includes Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson, Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story, Adam Duvall and Jay Bruce and Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant.
* Dustin Pedroia has now reached base safely in 32 straight games.
1) Rick Porcello
Porcello had his first complete game in a Red Sox uniform, stopping Boston’s losing skid at four games.
2) Xander Bogaerts
Bogaerts finished with a double and a home run -- the only Boston hitter with multiple hits. He also led the Red Sox with three RBI and scoring twice in the win.
3) Dustin Pedroia
In addition to walking in his first two at-bats, Pedroia had a base hit -- and another walk -- scoring twice on the night.