Big takeaway: The big WR is back

PHILADELPHIA -- The Patriots worked on the downfield passing game in Wednesday's joint practice with the Eagles, and one of the obvious takeaways was that the big receiver is back in the team's offense.

The play of the day was 6-foot-3 Aaron Dobson beating triple coverage to haul in a long bomb from quarterback Tom Brady over the middle in a competitive-catch situation.

It was a "throw it up there and give the receiver a chance to come down with it" type of play. Dobson, tapping his basketball-like skills, did just that. Cornerback Aqib Talib was so impressed that he started celebrating along the sidelines, jumping up and down as if he had just won the lottery.

Think about the team's offense in 2011 and 2012, and then ask the question, "Who could make that type of play in the deep part of the field?"

The top receivers last year were Brandon Lloyd (6-foot-0) and Wes Welker (5-foot-9). Lloyd made acrobatic catches along the sideline, but he wasn't outleaping defenders and high-pointing the ball on vertical routes downfield.

Two years ago, it was the top combination of Welker and Deion Branch (5-foot-9). Same type of deal.

So what we've seen from Dobson (6-3, 210) is something that hasn't shown up on the radar since the Patriots had 6-foot-4 Randy Moss running routes on the outside.

This isn't to compare Dobson to Moss. That would be ridiculous.

But it's the style of play that is being highlighted, while also keeping things in proper context (it's early, this was a joint practice, and Dobson is far from a polished product).

A few plays earlier in the practice, the Patriots attempted a similar long bomb to 5-foot-10- Julian Edelman, the throw coming into heavy coverage. It fell incomplete. Edelman will help the Patriots in different ways this year, but the difference between the two long pass plays was striking from this viewpoint.

With the taller, faster, athletic receiver making its return to the Patriots' offense, it opens up a dimension to the passing game that we haven't seen since the early parts of the 2010 season.