The Patriots 2012 second round pick Aaron Dobson was supposed to be the next great Patriots wide receiver. He certainly looked the part before an injury derailed his rookie campaign. He missed a lot of the offseason due to an injury and was clearly behind in the preseason.
Brian Tyms is effectively a journeyman in his third NFL season. He has a knack for making the big play, but he was suspended for the first quarter of the season. Still, the coaches believed in him.
Dobson played 31 snaps in Week 2 against Minnesota. He's played 11 snaps in both Week 5 and Week 6. He's been inactive for most of the year.
Tyms played 8 snaps in Week 6, including an electrifying touchdown catch, and 1 in Week 7.
So where do these players stand in the offensive game plan?
It's clear that the Patriots value Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski as every snap kind of players, and the team clearly is trending Brandon LaFell in that direction. When looking at offensive positions, those are the Patriots Z, Y, and X, respectively and should be considered as on the field for every snap. Additionally, the Patriots have a running back on the field (note: Shane Vereen) nearly 100% of the time as well.
This means that the Patriots are splitting up one final spot on the field amongst a wide array of qualified players. So long as Dobson and Tyms fall behind LaFell on the depth chart- and LaFell has been outstanding as of late- they'll be jockeying for time.
Danny Amendola is the slot receiver with his 20-30% snap count. Michael Hoomanawanui is an extra blocker 40% of the time. Tim Wright is taking the field as a second tight end on 20-30% of the snaps. Fullback James Develin is earning roughly 20% of the snaps, too, but is weighted by the game plan. The Patriots bring on an additional lineman to be an extra blocker nearly 10% of the time.
All this adds together to give essentially zero snaps to Dobson and Tyms (any difference in addition is because LaFell/Edelman/Gronkowski only really play for 95% of the snaps, so there are some snaps between the seat cushions). This is why they're not seeing the field.
So long as the Patriots feature a power running offense, Tyms and Dobson will likely sit on the sideline. Unless either can prove their merit in practice to force LaFell to the Z position and Edelman to the slot, and bump Amendola off the field altogether, they'll likely be a small part of the game plan- and Amendola staked some claim last week.
For all the talent in the world that Dobson and Tyms share, the reason behind their low impact comes down to sheer numbers. Sure, the coaching staff can design individual plays to get them involved, but that limits the offense- it's far easier to be multiple with Edelman, LaFell, Gronk, and Vereen showing either a passing or a rushing play. Playing Tyms or Dobson would tip the hand to be a passing play. Playing someone like Hoomanwanui, Wright, or Amendola doesn't reveal as much about the play call.
It's far too soon to give up on either player and it should be more of a positive that their lack of play is linked directly to an elevated level of performance by LaFell- not by poor performance on either account. As the running game is trying to find its hammer to replace Stevan Ridley, it's likely Dobson and Tyms will remain on the sideline as the team tries to help the running game find its legs.
Still, the Patriots can aim to include either player into more of the gameplan once the running game is solidified. They're both great threats on the outside and throwing a couple passes their way every game will force defenses to respect the deep ball and allow the Patriots to take advantage of the play action pass.
For now, neither is a part of the game plan. And, oddly enough, that's all according to plan.