Dorsett caught four passes on four targets for 95 yards with two touchdowns in the best game of his NFL career. And he was hours away from losing his No. 3 receiver role to Antonio Brown.
Almost two weeks later, and Dorsett has vaulted back up the Patriots’ depth chart. Brown was released by the Patriots for reasons you can read about in other stories. So, now Dorsett is back as the Patriots’ No. 3 receiver, which is a good place to be.
Much of the opposing defense’s attention will be turned to Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon. While Edelman and Gordon are attracting No. 1 cornerbacks and double teams, Dorsett should be good to feast on No. 2 and 3 cornerbacks. And unless undrafted rookie wide receiver Jakobi Meyers unexpectedly passes him on the depth chart, Dorsett should have at least four weeks to prove himself as an indispensable commodity in the Patriots’ offense.
We say four weeks because Cameron Meredith is eligible to return off of the physically unable to perform list in Week 7. First-round pick N’Keal Harry can come off of injured reserve in Week 9. Dorsett can fend those players off with four strong games against the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, Washington Redskins and New York Giants.
There are reasons to think he won’t. Dorsett was the Patriots’ No. 2 or 3 receiver for 10 games last season. He caught 29 passes for 294 yards with five touchdowns in those 10 games. Extrapolate that over 16 games and it’s 46 catches for 470 yards with eight touchdowns, which is … fine. Dorsett didn’t catch a pass in four of those 10 games, including Super Bowl LIII.
But there’s also plenty of hope for Dorsett in 2019. He was the No. 2 receiver behind Chris Hogan for the first four games of the 2018 season. Over the last two weeks of the regular season and in three playoff games, he was the No. 3 behind Edelman and Hogan.
We don’t have to tell you that Gordon is significantly better than Hogan and will draw more attention away from Dorsett.
There’s also the fact that a No. 3 receiver will be more necessary in the Patriots’ offense this season. Rob Gronkowski is gone, and the Patriots don’t have another tight end like him on their roster. The Patriots are running 62 percent of offensive plays with at least three wide receivers on the field through two games. That’s up five percentage points from 2018 and could continue to rise as games get tighter. The Patriots are more apt to run the ball with large leads.
The Patriots will be without fullback James Develin (neck) on Sunday against the Jets, and both of their tight ends, Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo, are questionable to play with ankle injuries. LaCosse didn’t practice Friday.
Even though the Patriots signed Jakob Johnson off of their practice squad to replace Brown on the roster and take over Develin’s role, the Patriots likely will still go heavy on two-halfback and three-receiver personnel packages.
We haven’t even mentioned that Tom Brady loves Dorsett and essentially treats him like his third son. Brady has completed 23 straight regular-season targets to Dorsett dating back to Week 5 of the 2018 season. A good way to earn Brady’s trust is to literally catch everything thrown your way.
It will be interesting to see how Dorsett fares as the Patriots No. 3 receiver behind talented players like Edelman and Gordon. And if he flops, the Patriots still have Meredith and Harry to fall back on.
Having a player with Brown’s talent is great. But the Patriots are in pretty good hands at wide receiver anyway.
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images