FOXBORO, Mass. — For the first two years of Phillip Dorsett’s New England Patriots tenure, the team was hoping for him to produce. Now, they’re expecting it.
Through three games this season, Dorsett has caught 13 passes on 14 targets for 187 yards and three touchdowns for the undefeated Patriots. He’s already matched his career high in touchdown catches and is on pace to shatter his personal bests in both receptions and receiving yards (33 for 528 in 2016).
In a receiving corps beset by injuries, unexpected arrivals and unceremonious departures, Dorsett has been a constant, reliable presence for quarterback Tom Brady, who’s jumped at every opportunity to praise the 26-year-old wideout.
“He’s done a great job for us, and he’s making a lot of plays for us,” Brady said after Wednesday’s practice. “We put him all over the field, and (he) just continues to improve. I think this has been a big year for Phil. He’s worked really hard, put himself in a great position to take advantage of his opportunities, and he’s certainly done it, so everyone’s happy for Phil. Nobody deserves it more than him. And he’s going to need to keep doing it.”
In Brady’s eyes, Dorsett, who’s firmly established as New England’s No. 3 receiver following the conclusion of the ignominious Antonio Brown era, is a vital part of the Patriots’ offense. The QB compared him to the likes of receiver Julian Edelman, running back James White and left guard Joe Thuney, who have blossomed into offensive stalwarts over the course of their respective Patriots careers.
That’s both high praise and heavy pressure for Dorsett to live up to.
“He’s one of the guys that’s now become one of the people on the team that you just have to count on week to week, and you have to know exactly what you’re going to get,” Brady said. “He was one of those guys before that was like, ‘Man, we don’t know.’ He was new here. There were other guys that carried the burden. And I think the veteran players who have been around, been in the tough games, know how to do it — you’ve got to carry the burden while the other guys can get up to speed and learn.
“That’s part of the responsibility for a veteran player — for a guy like Phil, for a guy like Julian, James White, Joe Thuney. They were all young players at one point. Now, they’ve become the veteran players that have to carry most of the burden.”
Dorsett has caught 26 of the last 27 regular-season passes thrown his way by Patriots quarterbacks. He could see an even larger role this Sunday against the Buffalo Bills if Edelman (chest) is sidelined or limited.