FOXBORO, Mass. — The Patriots took a bunch of swings on young receivers this spring, hoping that one would pan out. If Saturday’s session at training camp is any indication, Aaron Dobson might be that guy.
Dobson worked with the first-team offense for the second straight day in an attempt to build a rapport with Tom Brady, and he seemed to do just that. Brady looked the rookie’s way a few times early in the practice during 7-on-7 drills, and Dobson, who had some drop problems in the spring, managed to pull down all of them.
Dobson continued his breakout performance during 11-on-11s, running crisp routes and showing off those dependable hands he was heralded for coming out of Marshall. He didn’t drop a single pass on the day and, even without getting great separation, was able to shield defenders and adjust on routes to get open. He didn’t drop a pass during any of the team drills, either.
Some other receivers showed out during the day, too. Fellow rookie Josh Boyce finally appeared to be at full speed, Kamar Aiken‘s stock continued to soar with some tough catches, rookie Kembrell Thompkins created good separation along the sideline and Danny Amendola remained Brady’s favorite target with another solid effort, as expected. But Dobson was the star.
The second-round pick raised eyebrows with nice plays all day, including the unquestioned play of the day.
With Aqib Talib draped over him in man coverage, Dobson bolted down the sideline on what appeared to be a go-route. Brady unleashed a high arcing pass over the top, and Dobson managed to turn his entire body around, leap up and make the catch, keeping his feet in bounds, as he fell backward onto the sideline. The effort warranted some much-deserved excitement from Brady, who was much more vocal with receivers Saturday than he was on Day 1 or anytime during offseason workouts.
Dobson didn’t let the play get to his head, remaining even keeled and crediting Brady with the play.
“Oh yeah, definitely,” Dobson said when asked if he was impressed by Brady’s throw. “He’s going to put the ball there, I’ve just got to make the catch. That’s the same page that we’ve got to be on as a quarterback and a receiver.”
That chemistry is exactly what Bill Belichick was hoping for when he selected Dobson as the face of the Patriots’ wide receiver rebuild this offseason. Whether it lasts or not, Dobson definitely earned at least an inkling of Brady’s trust Saturday, which the young receiver knows will be key to any success during the season.
“It’s definitely a tough transition, you know, especially playing with Tom Brady,” Dobson said. “You’ve gotta come in, and you’ve gotta learn, and you’ve gotta make him trust you. You’ve got to be accountable for what you do, so I mean, it’s a tough transition, but you’ve just got to improve every day.”
Dobson was one of a few guys to make a notable improvement on Day 2 of camp, and he’s hoping to continue building on that momentum.
Here’s a list of three Patriots who improved and three who struggled on Day 2:
1. Aaron Dobson — He stole the show on Saturday. We’ll see if it continues when they strap on the pads.
2. Alfonzo Dennard — An athletic interception and a few pass breakups highlighted a very strong effort. Legal troubles aside, Dennard looks primed to fight for that starting role opposite Talib.
3. Kamar Aiken — He continues his ascent up the Patriots’ wide receiver depth chart with an impressive combination of size, hands and elusiveness.
1. Tim Tebow — He followed up an ugly Day 1 with more indecisiveness and inaccuracy Saturday. Patience is key with Tebow, but he has a long road ahead of him.
2. Aqib Talib — He’s still the team’s top corner, but he struggled with bigger receivers — Dobson, Aiken — at times Saturday.
3. Josh Boyce — It’s tough to say Boyce is “down,” since he missed the entire spring recovering from a broken foot, but a few drops didn’t help.