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Previous roster cutdown acquisitions show how the Patriots can integrate WR Phillip Dorsett

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The Patriots have signed players at the start of the season before. Here’s how they’ve been integrated into the game.

Detroit Lions v New England Patriots Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

The New England Patriots acquired WR Phillip Dorsett from the Indianapolis Colts a mere five days before the start of the regular season and he will have a lot to learn in a short period of time. Dorsett won’t be expected to be an every-down player early in his New England career (if ever), but we can look at how previous late-acquisition players have been integrated into the Patriots gameday roster.

In 2014, the Patriots acquired TE Tim Wright from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on August 26th and faced the Miami Dolphins on September 7th. This 11-day headstart was much longer than what the Patriots had with Dorsett and included a preseason game against the Giants where Wright played 42 snaps.

Wright played 21 snaps in the opener, and then 8 and 5 snaps in the subsequent weeks, before settling in at roughly 20% of the snaps from weeks 4 through 11, and bumping up to nearly 50% down the stretch of the season, supplanting Michael Hoomanawanui as the #2 tight end.

In 2015, the Patriots acquired WR Keshawn Martin on September 17th after week 1 of the season. Martin didn’t play in week 2, but played 45%, 85%, and 54% of the snaps before an injury sidelined him. He stepped into Julian Edelman’s old role when he returned from injury and Edelman was out with a foot injury, playing roughly 85-90% of the snaps.

In 2016, the New England Patriots acquired CB Eric Rowe from the Philadelphia Eagles on September 7th. The Patriots kicked off the season against the Arizona Cardinals on September 11th. Rowe dealt with an early ankle injury that prevented him from taking the field, but finally made his Patriots debut in week 6 against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Rowe had an up-and-down season, playing 38% of the snaps in his first game, then 100% in his second game, 60% in his third, and being inactive against in his fourth. When he played, he was extremely active on nearly every snap, but he was in and out of the lineup.

Dorsett didn’t have a preseason game like Wright. He’ll have more time to adjust than Martin did. He’s hopefully not going to deal with an injury like Rowe. But he’ll have to claw his way into the line-up like all three were able to do if he’s going to see the field.

I would expect Dorsett to be a minimal contributor in weeks 1 and 2, with maybe a couple designed plays to get his feet wet. Like Wright, I think he’ll start off slowly as a 20%-snap player for the Patriots, until he can show that he deserves more time ahead of Danny Amendola and Malcolm Mitchell, or that he’s capable enough to spell either Brandin Cooks or Chris Hogan for a few snaps per game.

If he shows promise, then I could see Dorsett making a Wright-like leap into the 50%-realm down the final stretch of the season, or even more snaps, as the Patriots rest key players to keep them healthy for the postseason. Remember that Malcolm Mitchell played roughly 80% of the snaps from weeks 10-15 as they rested Chris Hogan and Julian Edelman for long stretches; Mitchell even led all Patriots skill players in snaps against the Broncos in week 15.

The bottom line is that Dorsett won’t be thrown into the offense right out of the gate. The Patriots give their late acquisitions time to adjust before increasing their play time according to ability and need.