FOXBOROUGH -- Tom Brady is spending the summer trying to piece together a new-look Patriots passing attack.
Rob Gronkowski is retired. Julian Edelman opened training camp in NFI with a thumb injury. Josh Gordon just got conditionally reinstated by the NFL and remains on NFI. Demaryius Thomas was on PUP. Top pick N’Keal Harry missed time to a leg injury.
That’s forced Brady to work with variety of both newcomers and youngsters, but when the passing game was scuffling a bit early in the quarterback’s preseason debut Thursday night against the Panthers he turned to a familiar face who’s become a reliable option – Phillip Dorsett.
When throws to undrafted rookie receiver Jakobi Meyers and new/old tight end Benjamin Watson weren’t working for the Patriots undermanned passing attack, Brady’s first four completions against Carolina went to Dorsett, who finished the game catching all seven balls thrown his way for 47 yards, including a 19-yard long.
Was Dorsett doing a better job of getting open or was this a case of familiarity breeding success?
“I think both. Phillip is a guy that I’ve played a lot of football with, and I have a lot of trust in – experience is a great thing in football if you use it well, and I think our experience together pays off,” Brady said following the 10-3 preseason win over the Panthers. “I read his body language. I think the great thing about Phil, he takes advantage of his opportunities. A lot of guys have been injured this preseason. Phil plays all three wide receiver positions, remembers all the coaching points from all the times we’ve talked about certain things. Even though he may not have done it, he goes in there and does it the way that Coach wants it done. I love playing with Phil. He’s been a great contributor to our team, and he had a great night.”
While Dorsett may never be confused with a game-changing threat, he’s found a home in the New England offense and inside Brady’s circle of trust.
“It is definitely important to build that trust. If the quarterback trusts the receiver then he knows where you will be and can just throw the ball without even thinking,” Dorsett said. “Every day I go out there and continue to build that trust, think like him and be who he wants me to be.”
With all the uncertainty, injuries and new faces on the wide receiver depth chart, Dorsett’s value to Brady may be more than the statistics would imply. He was a solid option to turn to in a time of need against Carolina and has been enough times over the last couple seasons – he was the only guy to catch touchdown passes from Brady last postseason with a pair of scores – to prove himself to TB12.
But as the calm amidst summer swirling winds of uncertainty around him at receiver, don’t expect Dorsett to rest on his favored status with Brady.
“I would say I am definitely feeling a lot more comfortable but I think that comes with studying the playbook each day and practicing. Offense continuously evolves and there will always be something to chase in front of me,” Dorsett said. “Every game and every practice is an opportunity to go out there and be who you are and put your best foot forward. I wake up every day trying to get better. I am always working on my weaknesses and my strengths and that is what I look forward to when I wake up.”