Dobson, Boyce getting up to speed

Dobson, Boyce getting up to speed
July 27, 2013, 4:15 pm
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FOXBORO -- Aaron Dobson rose up, hands outstretched, his body twisting, as Tom Brady's spiral floated down the right sideline. Meeting the ball at the height of his jump, the rookie receiver from Marshall reached over Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib, snagged the pass, and touched his toes down in bounds.

It was an hour and 45 minutes into Saturday's training camp session, and Dobson had made the play of the day. That it came in a 7-on-7 drill didn't at all cheapen its impressiveness in the eyes of those packed into the bleachers surrounding the Patriots practice fields. They erupted.

On an offense that is without its top five receiving targets from last season, Dobson is one of six rookie receivers currently on the roster who could be depended upon to contribute to the Patriots offense this season.

The 6-foot-3, 200-pound second-round draft pick got plenty of snaps with Brady under center on the second day of training camp, and Brady targeted Dobson regularly. The pair hooked up for several completions over the course of the morning, including a second acrobatic sideline grab by Dobson in an 11-on-11 period that came about 15 minutes after his first.

Even after his strong showing, Dobson knew he still had plenty of work ahead of him. Like most rookies, he is still learning the team's playbook and adapting to the quickness it takes to play in the NFL.

"We're playing with the best in the world," Dobson said, "so the speed of the game is definitely going to be higher than what I came from in college."

Dobson's roommate, and New England's fourth-round pick out of Texas Christian Universty, receiver Josh Boyce also took repetitions with Brady on Saturday. After missing rookie minicamp in the spring while he recovered from a foot injury, Boyce said it felt "great" to be 100 percent healthy and back on the field.

Though the 5-11, 206-pound receiver missed his chance to run routes with his new teammates in the spring, he doesn't feel as though he's been left behind or trying to make up for lost time.

"I learned the playbook the same way they did," Boyce said of his fellow rookie receivers. "I just didn't get the reps in the spring. It's my turn to get the reps now."

Boyce and Dobson have tried to help one another figure out their new offense. It's been a challenge early on -- Boyce was called out by coaches for pre-snap mistakes twice on Saturday -- but it's one that they welcome.

"It's exciting," Boyce said. "I'm just excited to be on the team. I'm out here practicing again so I'm just excited for the whole process."

"It's definitely a tough transition," Dobson admitted. "Especially playing with Tom Brady you gotta come in, you gotta learn, you gotta make him trust you, and you gotta be accountable for what you do. It's a tough transition, but you just gotta improve everyday."

In the past, the Patriots have run a complicated offense that has proven difficult to grasp not only for young receivers, but newly-acquired veterans as well. Coach Bill Belichick was asked Saturday if, in light of the fact that the team is so young at the receiver position, the coaching staff may choose to simplify its offense.

"In everything that you do, you go in with an idea of how you want to try to do it," Belichick said. "You start on a certain course and then as you go along, you always end up making some type of modifications in some form or fashion based on the athletes' skills, the way the group fits together and what your success or lack of it might be as you start to do the things that you do.

"Some things sometimes work out a little better than you think, sometimes not as good, sometimes about the same. That goes for each individual player and it goes for the entire group as to how they end up working together as well. It’s an ongoing process; we’ll deal with it day by day. As we see that the course needs to be altered a little bit, then we’ll do it . . . We’re doing it in a way that I think will be right but I know we’re going to have to make adjustments. That’s the way it always is."

If and when those adjustments get made, having a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Brady would seem to simplify that process. Yet, Brady is famously demanding of his receiving corps, and the Patriots rookie wideouts know it. His intensity only drives them to master the offense sooner.

"It's hard but you gotta work everyday," Boyce said of keeping up with Brady. "Make the plays he wants you to make and then learn from your mistakes."

Even for Dobson, who flashed a solid connection with Brady on Saturday, it's important to continue to earn the trust of No. 12.

"He's one of the greatest quarterbacks to play the game," Dobson said. "He's definitely demanding, definitely tough to play for, but you just gotta do it."