If the New England Patriots are going to field a championship-caliber offense, WR Aaron Dobson must have a standout sophomore season.
The Marshall product showed flashes of brilliance as a rookie, but his inconsistent production left much to be desired. In six of the past seven years, the Patriots’ offense has featured a 100-catch receiver. Even after losing Wes Welker in the 2013 offseason, the Patriots fed the ball to Julian Edelman 105 times. Essentially, the Pats have been employing the middle of the field far too frequently for far too long — Tom Brady hasn’t had a true deep threat or playmaker on the outside since Randy Moss.
Bill Belichick and the New England brain trust seem to have fully committed to Dobson as the main guy in the vertical passing game. The rumored trade for Houston Texans receiver Andre Johnson never came to fruition, and while the team did pick Michigan receiver Jeremy Gallon in the draft, Gallon is 5-foot-8 and shouldn’t threaten Dobson for the starting spot.
In 12 games last season, Dobson put up decent but not overly impressive numbers: 37 catches, 519 yards and four touchdowns. Early in the year, he gained a reputation for dropping passes, acting as the poster boy for the Pats’ early-season offensive struggles. With an entire NFL season under his belt, Dobson should be more dependable and confident heading into 2013.
It is paramount that Dobson makes the most of this opportunity. If the Patriots’ passing offense reverts to short throws over the middle to diminutive receivers, it could be a long season. In college and at some points of his rookie season, Dobson looked like a formidable presence on the outside and on deep passes; if he has consistent success early in the season, defenses will have a much harder time slowing down other facets of the offense.
A goal of 75 receptions is reasonable for Dobson. Production of that nature will mean that Brady is finding ways to get Dobson the ball outside the hash marks, benefitting the offense as a whole because defenses aren’t able to key in on Edelman. If the running game is able to renew the success it had late last season, Dobson will have chances to get behind opposing safeties and catch the home run ball.