The New England Patriots currently have the maximum of 90 players on their active roster. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive the cutdowns on September 1 and ultimately make the team. Over the next weeks, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots recapture the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Today, the series continues with a former first-round draft pick.
Name: Phillip Dorsett
Position: Wide receiver
Jersey number: 13
Opening day age: 25
Size: 5’10, 185 lbs.
2017 review: Just five days before the 2017 season opener, the Patriots traded backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett to the Indianapolis Colts to acquire wide receiver Phillip Dorsett. Over the course of his first year in New England, the 29th overall selection of the 2015 NFL draft would go on to establish himself as the Patriots' number four option at the wideout position and see regular snaps in that role.
Dorsett appeared in 15 regular season contests and, playing 33.1% of New England's offensive snaps (377 of 1,139), finished with 12 catches for 194 yards. His 16.2 yards per reception were the second-highest on the team last year and reflect how the Patriots opted to use him: Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels liked Dorsett as a deep and intermediate threat to pressure on the top of opposing defenses.
While fellow trade acquisition Brandin Cooks was noticeably more productive in a similar role, Dorsett received his chances as well and saw his workload increase over the second half of the season. He also was given some playing time in the playoffs: After not seeing any snaps in round one, he played three in the AFC Championship Game before being on the field for 50 – his highest total of the year – in Super Bowl 52.
All in all, Dorsett caught two passes for 50 yards during the postseason and was asked to help fill Cooks' shoes after he had to leave the title game with a concussion. And even though the first-year Patriot failed to make a game-changing impact, his first year in New England still has to be considered a minor success given that he did not have the luxury of spending the offseason and training camp with the team.
2018 preview: Entering the final year of his rookie contact, the Patriots unsurprisingly opted not to pick up Dorsett's fifth-year option. Instead, he is now scheduled to hit free agency following his second year with the Patriots – if he even is able to remain on the team until next March. After all, New England's wide receiver position is one of the deepest on the team and Dorsett is no lock to survive the competition.
Dorsett, who has the fifth highest salary cap hit of the Patriots' current wideouts ($1.39 million), needs to have a productive next three months to keep his spot on the team. In order to do that, he has to take advantage of his biggest asset when compared to offseason additions like Jordan Matthews and Braxton Berrios: His one year of experience playing within New England's offense and alongside Tom Brady.
Further improving his chemistry with the quarterback therefore is a must. And while there was little indication of that happening during minicamp, the Patriots are still early in the process: Dorsett will be given plenty of chances over the summer to keep getting more comfortable in the offense and ultimately take a second-year leap in New England. And if that indeed happens, his chances of making the team look very good.
Ideally, Dorsett will help the Patriots fill the void created by the departures of Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola. If the team thinks he can do that and work as a reliable depth option alongside de-facto starters Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan, the 25-year old will find a role on the team. If not, however, seeing him released in September would not come as a surprise either.