Dobson's return to Patriots provides a boost

Dobson's return to Patriots provides a boost
August 29, 2014, 1:00 pm
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EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey – It was about this time last year when Aaron Dobson was under the microscope a bit.

A second-round pick, Dobson was thrown into the fire after the exodus of Patriots receivers in the 2012 offseason. Could this player from Marshall become one of the rare homegrown success stories at the position in an offense notoriously tough for young players to step into?

He started a bit slowly, but by the end of the season he finished with 37 catches for 517 yards and four touchdowns in 12 regular season games. The final two games he played on an injured foot that required offseason surgery.

It’s because of that surgery that Dobson is back under the microscope. But Thursday night was just further evidence that he can play a little, as opposed to an opening argument.

Dobson had three catches for 57 yards and a touchdown in his first game action of the summer. He narrowly missed another touchdown catch at the back of the end zone. Playing with, and against, mostly second-stringers, Dobson stood out. Which is what he should do as a projected contributor when the real games begin.

“Boy, I was excited to get back on the field,” Dobson smiled. “It was good, I left some out there but overall it was good to be out there again.”

The return of Dobson and the addition of second-year tight end Tim Wright via trade gives a little turbo boost to the Patriots receiving personnel.

Julian Edelman is, it seems, established as the prime target. Danny Amendola, in more of a complementary role, has had a very good camp and preseason. Kenbrell Thompkins’ versatility as an intermediate target who gets great separation has been showcased. Brandon LaFell has improved steadily. Dobson is a true outside-the-numbers, downfield threat. Wright showed he’s a quick study with a good performance in multiple deployments Thursday night. And, of course, Rob Gronkowski should be the hammer that makes life easier for all of them.

None of them are early-round fantasy picks. Together, though, they are going to be a pain to defend because it won’t be possible to take everyone away.

There was some trepidation that Dobson might not be ready at the start of the year but he obviously made some big strides over the past month.

“It was a tough process,” he acknowledged. “That was really my first injury, surgery and [time] sitting out, so it was a situation I had to learn to be patient. But I had a lot of support. It’s in the past now, so we’re onto the season. I think we can be a really good offense. We have a lot to work on but the expectations are high.”

Early last season, Dobson seemed a little daunted by the speed, complexity and physicality of the NFL. That he overcame that and didn’t shrink from the challenge says a lot about him as a player.

And Thursday night announced that Dobson’s now ready to pick up where he left off.