Phillip Dorsett

Finally moved in, Phillip Dorsett still waiting for production to arrive

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Finally moved in, Phillip Dorsett still waiting for production to arrive

FOXBORO — It took a while for Phillip Dorsett to get acclimated to New England. 

“My stuff literally just got here probably like two weeks ago,” the former Colt said after Tuesday’s practice. “I stayed in a hotel for about almost two months, so it’s been ... not rough -- I [got] used to it -- but I’m all settled in now.”

While Dorsett finally has his belongings, he and the Patriots are still waiting for his production to arrive. Since being acquired from the Colts in a deal for Jacoby Brissett, the speedster out of Miami has only recorded catches in two games. On the season, he’s totaled just four receptions.

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Bill Belichick sang Dorsett’s praises Tuesday morning, saying the third-year pro has gotten better each week, a claim that would seem to disagree with what’s been static non-production. 

Then again, Dorsett wouldn’t be the first receiver to join the Patriots and take a while to fit in. Jabar Gaffney had a pedestrian first regular season with the Pats but made an impact in the playoffs. The question is whether Dorsett experiences a fate closer to Gaffney’s or, say, Doug Gabriel, who joined the Pats via trade, kind of stunk and was out of the league before long. 

Of course, even Gabriel had 25 catches over 12 games. Dorsett is seemingly still trying to show Tom Brady and the coaching staff that he’s worth targeting. 

“They’ve asked me to do a lot of things, and when you get it you’ve just got to go home, you’ve got to work at it. It’s repetition,” Dorsett said when asked about learning a new system. 

Added Dorsett: “There’s a lot thrown at you, a lot of different formations, a lot of movement … I’m used to it. I played in a pro system in college and I guess that’s what’s helped me, and I played in a pro system when I got to the NFL.” 

The ceiling for Dorsett is obviously high. That he was traded at all turned heads given that he was selected in the first round of the 2015 draft and had shown improvement from his first year to his second season. Plus, his 4.33 speed alone would make him an intriguing addition for any team. 

He just hasn’t put it all together yet. He’s young (24) and he plays for a contending team that doesn’t just hand out snaps. With Chris Hogan’s shoulder potentially providing another blow to the Patriots’ receiver group, maybe more opportunity could be on the way. He and the Pats can only hope there’s more production if it comes to that. 

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Bill Belichick says Phillip Dorsett has 'gotten better every week'

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Bill Belichick says Phillip Dorsett has 'gotten better every week'

By the results, the Patriots probably aren’t enamored with Phillip Dorsett. By Bill Belichick’s words, they are. 

Belichick was asked about the third-year pro and first-year Patriot on Tuesday morning’s conference call. Though Dorsett has just four receptions this season and only one since his three-catch game in Week 2, Belichick said the Pats are seeing improvement from the former Colt. 

“Phillip’s gotten better every week,” Belichick said. “We’ve expanded his role and scope, things that he’s learning and the areas that he’s responsible for every week. He’s a smart kid, he works hard and he’s making progress.”

With a 4.33 40-yard dash, the book on Dorsett coming out of Miami was that he would take the top of defenses. Asked to elaborate on Dorsett’s strengths, Belichick said, “He’s smart, catches the ball well.”

The Patriots picked up Dorsett just prior to the season in a straight-up trade that sent Jacoby Brisett to Indianapolis. While Brissett has been the Andrew Luck-less Colts’ starting quarterback since Week 2, Dorsett hasn’t made much of an impact despite the Patriots suffering multiple injuries at the receiver position.  

Whether that changes down the stretch remains to be seen. Though he was hardly a star in Indianapolis, his 33-catch 2016 campaign suggests he’s certainly capable of more than what he’s been able to muster so far as a Patriot. 

Why Phillip Dorsett will need to be ready for more in Denver

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Why Phillip Dorsett will need to be ready for more in Denver

The Patriots make use of myriad personnel groupings and formations offensively, but like the rest of the NFL, there's one set that they favor over all others: 11 personnel. 

One back. One tight end. Three receivers. It is the modern NFL's primary offensive setup. According to Football Outsiders, 2016 was the sixth consecutive year that three-wideout formations saw an increase. Eleven personnel accounted for more than 60 percent of all offensive plays, and every offense in the league used it for at least 40 percent of their snaps. It was more than 3.5 times as common as any other formation, per Football Outsiders.

Though the Patriots still make great use of two-back sets -- deploying both "pony" formations as well as more traditional power formations with a fullback -- they have favored 11-personnel groupings over all others this season, running with three receivers on the field for 48 percent of their offensive snaps. 

With that in mind, Phillip Dorsett may have to be ready for a steep increase in playing time this weekend. If Chris Hogan, who injured his shoulder in Week 8 against the Chargers, can't play then it could be up to Dorsett to fill in. 

Brandin Cooks is the clear-cut No. 1, having played almost 92 percent of snaps this season. And Danny Amendola (49 percent) would likely slot in as the No. 2 if Hogan misses time. That would leave Dorsett (19 percent) as the likely No. 3 in New England's three-receiver looks. 

The Patriots could turn to their pass-catching backs more often to help make up for Hogan's loss. They have three they can rely upon in James White, Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead. But there will certainly be 11-personnel plays the Patriots will want to keep available to them in Denver. And for those they'll need Dorsett.

"Yeah, Phillip – he came in and didn’t really have a whole lot of extra practices from camp and the spring, like some of our guys or most of our guys did," Josh McDaniels said during a conference call on Monday morning. "He just kind of got thrown in there, and he’s really doing a good job of working hard, working extra with Coach [Chad] O’Shea. Chad’s doing a great job of trying to get him caught up on some of the things, the foundational things that you need to be able to go from one week to the next and feel like you’re not learning a new offense every single week.

"Phillip’s a smart kid, he works hard, he’s got a good work ethic, good attitude and he’s continued to work at playing different spots and being ready to go when his opportunities come up. Hopefully, that will continue to progress as we go through the season. I know that’s what he wants. I know that’s what we want, and we’re looking forward to that."

Dorsett has seen eight snaps for the Patriots in each of the last two weeks despite being given a start Week 7 against the Falcons. He's caught four passes on seven targets for 85 yards for an average of 21.3 yards per catch. He last saw a pass come his way in Week 6 against the Jets, though he didn't catch any of the three targets he saw that day, and one was intercepted deep down the middle of the field by corner Buster Skrine.