The New England Patriots, who conclude their 2019 mandatory minicamp later today, currently have the maximum of 90 players on their active roster. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive the cutdowns on August 31 and ultimately make the team. Over the course of the summer, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots defend their Super Bowl title.
Today, the series continues with one of New England’s most experienced wide receivers.
Name: Phillip Dorsett
Position: Wide receiver
Jersey number: 13
Opening day age: 26
Size: 5’10, 190 lbs.
2018 review: Following an unspectacular first season in New England, Phillip Dorsett found himself in a good position to take a step forward in 2018: not only did he participate in the Patriots’ offseason workouts for the first time — Dorsett was acquired via trade in September 2017 — and brought a year’s worth of experience in the system to the table, the club had also moved on from 2017 starters Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks.
But despite conditions being perfect for Dorsett to finally live up to his first-round draft status, he produced an up-and-down season marked by inconsistent playing time. He opened the year as a starting wide receiver, and was on the field for 214 of the Patriots’ 265 offensive snaps (80.8%) through the first four weeks of the season — catching 16 passes for 165 yards and 2 touchdowns in the process.
The acquisition of Josh Gordon and Julian Edelman returning off a four-game suspension, however, changed Dorsett’s role within the offense: he was pushed down the depth chart and became more of a role player and the third/fourth wide receiver on the roster. As such, he caught only 16 more passes over the remainder of the regular season, for 125 yards and 1 score — all while seeing his playing time drop significantly.
His role did also not significantly change after Gordon was suspended indefinitely in late December: Dorsett remained a mostly rotational player, and failed to establish himself as a reliable option at the wide receiver spot alongside Edelman and a similarly inconsistent Chris Hogan. He therefore finished the 2018 regular season with a relatively pedestrian stat-line of 32 catches for 290 yards and 3 touchdowns, while playing 35.7% of the Patriots’ offensive snaps (399 of 1,119).
His playing time did bounce back a bit with Gordon no longer a part of the equation, however, and Dorsett was established as the number three wide receiver on New England’s roster by the time the playoffs began: during the postseason, he was on the field for 100 of 252 snaps (39.7%) and ended the tournament with 5 total receptions for 70 yards and one touchdown each in the divisional and championship round.
All in all, Dorsett’s 2018 season was a continuation of his first three in the NFL: he flashed his talents and chemistry with quarterback Tom Brady at times, but was also not consistent enough to establish himself as a starting-caliber player when the opportunity presented itself early in the year and again after Gordon’s departure.
2019 preview: With the Patriots deciding not to pick up Dorsett’s fifth-year contract option in May 2018, the wide receiver hit unrestricted free agency earlier this offseason. However, he was quickly brought back into the fold by New England: the team re-signed the 26-year-old to a one-year contract, worth $2.6 million — a deal reflective of the wide receiver’s status heading into the summer: he is no lock to make the team.
What speaks for Dorsett, however, is his experience especially compared to the rest of the wideouts currently under contract. He now has two seasons with the Patriots under his belt and as such is the second most experienced true wide receiver on the team’s roster behind only Edelman. If he can take advantage of it to produce a successful training camp and preseason, he appears to be a prime candidate to survive cutdown day.
Ideally, Dorsett will play a role similar to the one he held by the end of last year: with Edelman and first-round rookie N’Keal Harry as the presumed top two wide receivers, the former Indianapolis Colt will fight for the number three spot — and again see most of his action based on situation and personnel package. At this point in his career, much more than that should probably not be expected from the former 29th overall draft pick.
That being said, he has fared relatively well in such a role. As long as the Patriots don’t need him to be starting-caliber contributor both they and Dorsett should be fine in 2019.