Late this morning, news broke that had practically seemed inevitable: New England Patriots wide receiver Aaron Dobson is getting placed on injured reserve following a hamstring injury suffered in the team’s 26-21 loss to the Green Bay Packers in week 13.
The inevitability stemmed from Dobson’s inability to crack the active 46-man game roster this season. Sunday’s brief appearance was his first since an early October tilt at Buffalo. When Dobson pulled up lame on his only target of the game, it appeared that the “injury” would be the perfect way to shuffle him off to IR and free up a roster spot.
It was an abrupt, yet almost fitting end to Dobson’s disappointing 2014 campaign.
Yet this was not what we expected from Dobson in 2014. Following an inconsistent, yet promising 2013 season, this was supposed to be the year that Dobson developed into the do-it-all young receiver that the Patriots have desperately sought over the better part of the last decade.
It is hard to say exactly where things went wrong with Dobson. Statistically, he had the best rookie season of any wide receiver drafted in the Bill Belichick era. Yet, the statistics can be deceiving. At times as a rookie, the NFL game seemed to big for the Marshall product. He dropped wide open passes, struggled in contested ball situations, and never seemed to be on the same page as quarterback Tom Brady. While certain metrics viewed Dobson in a favorable light, he never passed the “eye test,” and that has to count for something too.
The Patriots had an obvious need for a contributor with Dobson’s talent and skillset heading into 2014. Unfortunately for Dobson, a late-season foot injury from his rookie year cost him nearly the entire offseason and most of training camp. Dobson was supposed to learn from his 2013 mistakes, and he never had that opportunity. With the emergence of veteran Brandon LaFell as a consistent and reliable outside threat, it made Dobson’s development a luxury and not a necessity (as it was in 2013).
All of this being said, it is not time to close the book on Dobson just yet. Assuming this hamstring injury is not serious, he will get a full offseason in 2015 to work on his game and develop chemistry with quarterback Tom Brady. There’s no question that Dobson has the physical talent to contribute to this team. However, his roster spot is no longer safe due to his second round draft status. He needs to prove that his 2013 production was not due to a lack of talent on the Patriots' roster. He needs to prove that he can stay healthy. Heading into next year, it is make-or-break time for Dobson – he’s officially on the roster bubble.