The New England Patriots received some very positive news on the practice field Wednesday morning, as both punter Ryan Allen and wide receiver Aaron Dobson returned to practice. Quarterback Tom Brady and long snapper Danny Aiken were not spotted.
Allen injured his shoulder in the second quarter of the Patriots divisional playoff tilt against the Colts, after being tackled at the goal line following a bad snap (although the injury may have actually come on the ensuing free kick). Kicker Stephen Gostkowski punted the rest of the way in his place. If Allen is indeed good to go Sunday, that’s a big plus for the Patriots. Allen has been solid as a rookie, and having him back also means that the Patriots don’t need to scramble for a new punter and holder.
Having Aaron Dobson back in the fold is even bigger news for the Patriots. The Broncos are without their best cornerback, Chris Harris after he tore his ACL over the weekend. Their other top cornerback, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, is likely to get Julian Edelman as his main assignment. Dobson likely takes over for Kenbrell Thompkins on the outside. Thompkins has essentially been a ghost the last two weeks, but Dobson provides a real deep threat that Denver will have to account for.
When on the field, Champ Bailey has primarily been a slot cornerback for the Broncos this year, but could be forced back to the outside with Harris out. Having Bailey, who’s battled a foot injury all season, guard the tall, athletic Dobson could be a mismatch for the Patriots. If the Broncos put DRC on Dobson, than you’ve got Bailey on the uber-quick Edelman. In three receiver sets, the Broncos will be forced to play either Tony Carter or Kayvon Webster on Danny Amendola. To put it simply: having Aaron Dobson back would give the Patriots a lot of potential ways to create mismatches with their receivers.
Of course, just because Dobson and Allen returned to practice doesn’t mean they will play. But today’s news is an encouraging sign, to say the least.