Patriots

Will Dobson finally change the storyline this year?

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Will Dobson finally change the storyline this year?

FOXBORO - Aaron Dobson is like the tide. Hitting a predictable high-water mark around the same time every season then gradually receding to a predictable low.

At least that’s how it’s seemingly gone for the first three seasons of the wideout’s NFL career. In truth, it’s not really been as bleak as we’ve all intimated it to be.

There have been bright spots for the 2013 second-rounder and there is upside to his game. But the combination of injuries, inconsistencies and annual drops into obscurity have obscured the very notion that anything he does between May and August should be taken seriously.

Saturday, Dobson was back at it again with the summertime fun making two terrific early-practice grabs on the first day in pads. That was a continuation of what he put out there in May and June when he looked nothing like the guy who pattycaked so many passes in 2015.

When the team’s key skill players broke off to a separate field midway through practice it was Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Rob Gronkowski, Martellus Bennett and Dobson working out.

Dobson knows the party line on him. He basically summarized what folks feel has been lacking with his game.

“I’m just trying to keep improving and stay consistent and show my teammates that I can stay consistent and dependable,” Dobson told me Friday.

We’ve done the Dobson Propaganda “This may be the year…” piece before. Like last summer when Josh McDaniels gushed about Dobson and we dutifully talked him up. It wasn’t without cause. The guy does things nobody else on the roster at the wideout position can do because of his height and leaping ability.

I asked Dobson if he’s yet shown the best of what he can do.

“I feel like I can play football,” he said. “It’s up to me to show my abilities to everybody. It’s hard to really say. For me, I’m just trying to get out and get better every day, every day, every practice.”

He couldn’t have envisioned this, though. Fourth season and still with some nitwit standing in front of him talking about his football mortality in New England.  

“Going through what I’ve gone through has been difficult but you just have to stay grounded,” he said. “You can’t let it hold you back, you can’t let it keep you down, you can’t worry about the past, you just gotta worry about the future and what I can do to help myself.”

There are things beyond Dobson’s control that have intervened. A stress fracture in his foot in 2013 that bled over into 2014 when surgery was deleted then performed in the spring.

But there are things which seem preventable too that keep arising. Like the number of times Dobson is unable to catch the ball cleanly and double-catches the ball.

I asked him about that.

“You gotta let the ball in,” he said. “Regardless. When it comes to double-catching, you just gotta make the catch, when it comes to you.”

You hear the things he’s said before – all said with a self-deprecating smile. No ego. You see the things he can do in the air. And you think…this year?

Then you watch that drill with Brady and Garoppolo, Bennett and Gronkowski. And throw after throw, when Dobson could either catch the ball out front with his hands or let it come into his chest or cradle it into his stomach, he chooses the latter. The less safe, less polished, easier way to catch.

And you know the coda to this Dobson story like the ones in the past comes with the caveat, “we’ll see…”

Tom E. Curran can be followed on Twitter: @tomecurran

Roger Goodell gives update on Patriots investigation, Antonio Brown and more

Roger Goodell gives update on Patriots investigation, Antonio Brown and more

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell met with reporters Wednesday at the league meeting in Dallas and provided updates on several different topics, including the ongoing investigation into the New England Patriots.

Here are the answers to some of the questions Goodell was asked.

On the Patriots-Bengals investigation...
The New England Patriots are being investigated by the NFL after a video crew taped the Cincinnati Bengals' sideline at last Sunday's Week 14 game in Cleveland. The Patriots said in a statement that the video crew was set there to shoot footage for an upcoming episode of their "Do Your Job" web series. 

There is no set timetable for when the investigation will be concluded, according to Goodell.

"I've actually been down here almost the entire time," Goodell said. "I only had an opportunity to spend some time with a couple of our staff. Obviously, it's under review. We're going to be thorough. We'll take our time and make sure we look at everything that's pertinent here, and then we'll make a decision."

Will the Patriots' history of illegal videotaping (a.k.a. Spygate) play a factor in this current investigation?

“Of course. That's a factor,” Goodell said. “But I think the key things are the new information that we have — that (old) information, we obviously already had. I think the issue is what information do we have from this incident.”

Does Goodell anticipate a conclusion to the investigation by the end of the season?

"I don't have any anticipation," he said. "We're going to be thorough. We're going to get all the facts. We'll go from there."

On the Antonio Brown investigation...
The investigation into the allegations made against former Patriots wide receiver Antonio Brown has not concluded. Goodell noted investigators still have more work to do before giving the league an update.

“They still have not completed the investigation,” Goodell said. “The investigators did; I did not meet with Antonio. They have more work to do. They are following up on that. I will get an update when they have more information.”

Brown was released by the Patriots on Sept. 20 after a brief 11-day tenure in New England.

On the possibility of reseeding in the playoffs...
It's looking increasingly likely that the winner of the NFC East -- the Dallas Cowboys or Philadelphia Eagles -- will finish with a losing record, but based on the current playoff format, that division winner probably will host a team with 10-plus wins (likely the NFC West runner-up) in the Wild Card round. Should the league reseed in the playoffs to not give teams with losing records a home playoff game just because they won their division? Goodell admitted it's not something being discussed right now.

"This is not the first time this conversation has occurred, or the situation has occurred," Goodell said. "Teams go into the season and the first objective is to win the division. That's what they work on -- we win the division and we get in the playoffs. That is something that we've considered over the years. I have not heard that this year. I don't anticipate hearing it again. It's been discussed in the past, but I don't see that as an issue. If it comes up, we'll certainly have the conversation. I don't anticipate it."

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Patriots add kicker, two other new players to practice squad

Patriots add kicker, two other new players to practice squad

The NFL's roster merry-go-round never stops, and the Patriots kept busy on the transaction wire Wednesday by signing three players to their practice squad: DE Eric Lee, DB Adarius Pickett, and K Josh Gable.

Gable's addition is the most out-of-the-box, as Phil Perry explained earlier Wednesday afternoon.

The 28-year-old never played college football, but made a name for himself with compilations of trick shot videos on YouTube. Gable most recently played for the Tucson Sugar Skulls of the Indoor Football League, where he went 6-for-16 on field goals and 50-for-57 on extra points.

The Patriots had brought him in for a workout earlier this season, but ultimately signed Mike Nugent, who only lasted four games.

As for Lee, this marks his second stint in Foxboro. New England signed the 25-year-old late in the 2017 season, and he racked up 2.5 sacks, four quarterback hits, and an interception in his first two games.

He played in Super Bowl LII against the Eagles, but didn't survive roster cuts for the 2018 season. He bounced on and off the Lions active roster and practice squad over the last two seasons.

Pickett, the final practice squad addition, is an undrafted rookie out of UCLA who spent some time with the Bears and Chargers earlier this year.

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