Saturday, July 27, 2013
Big takeaway: Spotlight on youthful WRs
By Mike Reiss
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Forced to pick one top storyline through the first two days of Patriots training camp, it would be the team's youth at receiver.
There are 12 receivers on the roster. Six are rookies.
In Bill Belichick's 14 years as head coach, I can't think of another time that half of the receiver position has consisted of rookies. On top of that, some of the rookies could be counted on for significant contributions this season; this isn't just filling in the back end of the depth chart.
For the better part of the offseason, we've talked about all the questions at receiver. We know that Tom Brady is currently without his top five pass-catchers from last season, and as ESPN's Mark Schwarz said on "NFL Live" Friday, the last team to enter a season in a similar situation was the 1997 New Orleans Saints. Belichick himself mentioned, for a number of reasons, it has turned out to be a "redo" at the receiver position.
So what have we seen so far?
Let's start with the idea that these have not been full-pads practices, so receivers have yet to work getting off the jam. That can change the look of things in an instant.
With free releases off the line of scrimmage, three rookie receivers have shown up most at various points over the first two days -- draft picks Aaron Dobson (second round) and Josh Boyce (fourth round), and Kenbrell Thompkins (free agent).
Dobson, in particular, has caught our attention because he's been given an early chance for top repetitions with Brady. He's 6-foot-3 and listed at 200 pounds, and has been working mostly outside the numbers. He made one very nice catch Saturday, turning his back to the ball, leaping and reaching up over cornerback Aqib Talib to haul in a delivery from Brady along the right sideline.
There's a long way to go, but it's a promising start for Dobson. Can't think of too many rookies who have received this much work with Brady this early in camp.