The Patriots have invested heavily on the defensive side of the football this offseason with the signings of Revis/Browner and the restructure of Vince Wilfork's contract and the defense looks solidified.
On offense however the team has done very little to add to a group that was stagnant at times even letting go of Legarrette Blount, a top performer from last season. That being said the Patriots are going to need someone on offense to step up and I believe I can make the case for an Aaron Dobson second year leap.
Aaron Dobson can be expected to improve in his second season partially for his raw physical abilities. Unlike the Edelmans and Amandolas of the league Dobson has above average physical traits.
The most notable of Dobson's physical abilities would be his size. At 6'3'' Dobson passes the eye test and has the size needed to play as a true X receiver in the NFL.When you pair Dobson's size with his above average speed (4.42 sec 40 time at combine) Dobson has everything necessary to beat defenders on the outside.
Although physical ability doesn't mean everything in the NFL, just look at players like Darrius Heyward-Bey , however Dobson offers a unique blend of physical traits and wherewithal to get open.
As necessary for an NFL wide out, Dobson can get open in many different ways. For a man weighing in at 6'3'' and 210lbs Dobson actually shows more finesse tendencies in his route running. Looking back at the week 9 game against the Steelers Aaron Dobson made a 81 yard catch midway through that game. Dobson was lined up to start the play out wide, took a simple outside release, and simply outran the Steeler's secondary down the field. The speed exhibited on the play to run past two players is rarely exhibited by a man his size.
Using his unique mix of skills Dobson was already somewhat of a big play receiver last season for the Patriots. In the 12 games he appeared in last season he averaged 14 yards per catch compared o Edelman's 10.1 and Amendola's 11.7 showing he already is able to get down the field more effectively than those two veterans can.
The speed and athleticism game for Dobson is nice, but where he really helps the Patriots is with his release off the line. Dobson has a surprisingly quick first step off the line of scrimmage and can use his long arms to throw off weaker corners. The impact of his ability to get open can be seen in games such as the Patriots vs Buccaneers. In that game Dobson made 7 catches for only an average of 7.4 yards a catch against tight defense. The numbers may not be flashy amassing only 52 yards but Dobson's ability to release off the line becomes extremely important in the playoffs when defenses tighten up. that being said it is important to note that in the AFC title game against Denver last season Dobson showed his ability to get down field with 2 catches for 33 yards.
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Also not to be forgotten is that Aaron Dobson actually had a solid rookie campaign. He started the season slow but picked up his play as chemistry grew with Brady and the season progressed. he made 4 catches for 60 yards against the Dolphins, 6 for 63 against the Saints,and 5 for 130 against the Steelers ending the season with 519 total yards which was 4th on the team.
The biggest drawback Dobson showed in his rookie year was all of the dropped passes. Over the entirety of the season Dobson dropped 9 balls including some horrible drops that hit him right in the hands, but you shouldn't rule out Dobson as a pass catcher based off that small sample size. In his senior year at Marshall Dobson dropped zero passes on 91 targets so there really is no reason to think that his drops are because he has bad hands. It is more likely that his drops came from lake of focus or nerves due to his lack of experience, which can both be fixed with more practice and game time.
Aaron Dobson was not the incredible Randy Moss replacement that fans hoped for in 2013, but he stilled managed to have the best performance by a rookie wide receiver on the Patriots in a decade and his future is bright for the team. With more time around the team and more experience under his belt look for Dobson to have a spike in production in 2014.