FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — On paper, there's a lot to like about wide receiver Aaron Dobson's game. On the field, that potential has yet to manifest into tangible results.
He flashes at times, like on his 12-yard reception over the middle, a bobbled pass where Dobson was able to keep his focus to make the catch in traffic. He had another nice play on an 18-yard reception where he absorbed a hit and continued running to pick up extra yards.
But then, there were plays like his dropped pass from Ryan Mallett that sailed into the waiting arms of Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich, and another near-interception that was called back on review where Dobson could have fought harder for an underthrown fade from Mallett in the back corner of the end zone.
All the tools are there. He just has to start putting it together on the field.
"He's big, he's fast, he's got good hands, smart," coach Bill Belichick said the day after drafting him. "He has some position flexibility and versatility, catches the ball very well. We'll see how it goes."
Now that Belichick has seen the rookie receivers in the offense for a full offseason program, how does he feel about the progress?
"Like a lot of rookies, some good things, some not so good," he said on Wednesday.
"Better over time; we'll see how it goes."
Still waiting to see how it goes.
What we've seen so far is up-and-down play. He shows some toughness getting off press coverage and making catches in traffic, but still has some lapses in concentration that lead to negative plays, like we saw tonight.
He was flagged for offensive pass interference, wiping away an 18-yard reception by fellow rookie Josh Boyce when he started pushing the defensive back backwards with the pass still in the air.
In the preseason, Dobson has caught 11 of 23 passes thrown his direction for 160 yards, and has dropped at least three of his incompletions.
He's been catching passes from Tim Tebow and Ryan Mallett at times, which could be cause for the lower completion percentage, but top-notch receivers are supposed to help their quarterbacks by making plays on the ball.
Despite a lot of turnover on offense, the Patriots have enough offensive firepower to get by while Dobson learns the ropes. The team looks very smart now for signing receiver Danny Amendola and undrafted rookie Kenbrell Thompkins to help tide the Patriots offense over in the meantime.
Dobson's development remains a work in progress, but let's not be too hard on him just yet. He is just a rookie, and growing pains are to be expected, as we were reminded on Thursday night.
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