Even before he hauled in the 81-yard punctuation mark touchdown pass from Tom Brady on Sunday, Aaron Dobson was having his best day as a pro.
The varied routes -- back shoulder on the sideline, go-routes, in-cuts -- and his ever-improving situational awareness signaled that the rookie that looked overmatched at points in August and September is making huge strides.
“He’s definitely asked to run different types of patterns,” Bill Belichick said when asked about Dobson’s five-catch, 130-yard, two-touchdown performance. “Of course, even if you run the same pattern, a lot of times it’s different because of the coverage the defense plays and the adjustment or the technique of beating the leverage of the coverage changes. I think Aaron has shown very steady improvement through the course of the season, works really hard, he’s on the field almost every day since the start of training camp. He’s very attentive in meetings and walkthroughs and in film and all that. You see him just keep getting better and better. It’s not perfect but it’s better than it was few weeks ago and a few weeks ago it was better than it was a few weeks before that. I think his hard work and dedication is paying off. He’s making plays and there are still probably more to be made. He’s really working hard and the results will follow.”
No doubt there are more plays to be made. The timing between he and Brady isn’t yet where it could be, especially in terms of reading Brady’s expectations. There was a deep in-cut Dobson ran against the Steelers on which he was open coming out of his break and sat down expecting the ball. Brady lasered the pass another 2 yards inside where Dobson stopped, and a solid completion skidded across the turf instead.
But the arc of Dobson’s season has been steadily on the upswing.
Meanwhile, fellow rookie Kenbrell Thompkins’ usage has been tapering off.
After limited use against the Dolphins, Thompkins was benched against the Steelers. It’s not something one foresaw after Thompkins caught six balls (including the game-winner) for 127 yards in the Patriots win over New Orleans on September 29.
Belichick said Thompkins hasn’t plateaued.
“I think KT is still making good progress and is working hard. I haven’t seen any letup in his effort level or trying to do things that he knows he needs to do. I think he’ll continue to improve and help our football team,” Belichick offered. “Just the way things went yesterday with our game plan and our opponent and a combination of factors, we felt that we activated the 46 players that we felt would give us the best chance to win. We’ll do that same thing every week. However that turns out, it will be a week-to-week decision for everybody. I don’t think anybody has lost any confidence in KT, I certainly haven’t. I think he’s made a lot of improvement this year. He continues to work hard and I think will continue to make it.”