This could be Aaron Dobson's final chance, and he's set up for a major opportunity.
With Reggie Wayne asking to be shown the door and Brandon LaFell sidelined for the Patriots first five games of the season (remember: PUP list players sit for six weeks, but the Patriots have an early bye week), Dobson is now the team's top sideline receiver. There is no Brian Tyms creeping over his shoulder. There's no Kenbrell Thompkins fighting for time.
It's Dobson in the open field with no one around him. If he can't take advantage of this chance, then he's likely not going to make it in New England.
As a rookie in 2013, Dobson collected 42 receptions for 519 yards and 4 touchdowns, before a foot injury derailed the end of his season. That injury carried over into 2014 and he was unable to plant his foot to generate separation. He injured his hamstring and was placed on the injured reserve.
Dobson will always be under scrutiny as a Bill Belichick-drafted wide receiver, especially one in the second round, ahead of players like the Cowboys Terrance Williams and the Chargers Keenan Allen. If Dobson flops, this is another mark against Belichick's ability to evaluate wide receivers.
While Dobson showed up plenty during the offseason, another injury sidelined him for the majority of the preseason, before he played large chunks of time against the Panthers and the Giants. He is still a work in progress and there was obvious rust when he was on the field. He'll have to shake that off quickly to earn his time on the field.
Dobson has a five week audition period coming up. Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman will be every-down players, and a running back will always be on the field. That means that Dobson will have to fight with Scott Chandler and Danny Amendola for those final two spots on the field. Luckily all three offer different skill sets, so Dobson should have an open path when Belichick calls for situation football.
But Dobson needs to reach out and grab the opportunity. He can't wait and hope that it will hit him in the chest. Chris Harper is down the depth chart itching to pluck snaps away from Dobson, and LaFell will be back soon enough. Dobson has a lot riding on these first few weeks of the year. Hopefully he's finally ready to take advantage.