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