Four catches for 36 yards and no touchdowns typically isn’t much of a reason to celebrate.
But consider this: New England Patriots wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, who posted that stat line in Friday night’s 25-14 preseason loss to the Carolina Panthers, didn’t manage more than three catches in any of the 18 games he played in last year. He notched multiple receptions in just three contests and was shut out nine times.
Despite playing 377 offensive snaps for the Patriots in 2017, Dorsett simply never gained the trust of quarterback Tom Brady, resulting in a season total of 12 catches on 18 targets for 194 yards and no scores.
Friday’s performance suggested a change in that department.
After hauling in just one of his three targets from Brady in last week’s win over the Philadelphia Eagles, Dorsett caught all four passes thrown his way against the Panthers.
Brady and the 25-year-old wideout connected on a 6-yard hitch on New England’s first offensive play, a screen pass that resulted in a 16-yard gain after Dorsett evaded cornerback Donte Jackson, an 8-yard strike on which Dorsett made a nice lunging grab and a 6-yard pickup on fourth-and-3.
On that final reception, cornerback James Bradberry lined up 8 yards off Dorsett, who was split wide to the right side. A 4-yard hook and a quick ball by Brady were all it took to pick up a first down and extend the drive.
“Phil did a good job,” Brady told reporters after the game. “He made some good plays. He’s done a good job through the spring and through training camp. He’s been dependable, he’s been out there, and it’s been great to watch. We got him (just before the season) last year, and I think he’s just been grinding it out, trying to find a role. He’s done a great job with his opportunities.”
The Patriots’ receiving corps has undergone a radical makeover over the past few months, first with the offseason departures of Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks and then with the cuts of Malcolm Mitchell, Jordan Matthews and Kenny Britt. What’s left is a group that features just two players who have had success in the Patriots system: Chris Hogan and Julian Edelman, the latter of whom is suspended for the first four games of the regular season.
Dorsett finding a spot in Brady’s exclusive circle of trust would be a tremendous development for New England’s offense, especially since receivers like Eric Decker, Riley McCarron and Braxton Berrios all have failed to lock down roster spots this preseason.
“I think that how you’ve got to earn the trust of the coaches and your teammates is to get out there and do it under real live circumstances and play clocks and situation and signals,” Brady told reporters. “We’re going to have to be all on the same page. We’ve got to work hard at it, and we’ve got two weeks to figure out who’s going to be out there doing it. (We’ll) try to go out there and get better each day in the meantime.”
Thumbnail photo via Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY Sports Images
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