FOXBORO -- Even Bill Belichick aknoweldges that the Aaron Dobson storyline that has materialized this summer is a familiar one.
On a seemingly annual basis, Dobson plays well in the spring and summer. We write about it. We wonder if this will be the year he puts it all together. Rinse. Repeat.
After a strong rookie campaign in 2013 -- one of the best seasons a rookie receiver has had under Belichick in New England -- Dobson has dealt with nagging injuries and played in just 12 games total in the last two years.
On Monday, Belichick openly wondered if his former second-round pick could finally capitalize on impressive minicamp and training camp performances to turn those into regular-season production.
"You know, Aaron’s had a good spring and a good few days here at training camp. I think we’ve seen that from him before," Belichick said. "I’d say Aaron just, for whatever reason, hasn’t been able to consistently be on the field and do it. You know, when he’s been out there he’s looked good a lot, but he hasn’t always been out there for one reason or another.
"Hopefully . . . I know he’s training hard, looks like he’s in good condition this year. Hopefully he’ll be able to stay on the field and continue to improve. I think that’s really the key, you know, it’s not just being healthy, but being healthy to practice and improve. And Aaron’s worked hard, he’s made some good catches, so hopefully he keeps climbing in that direction."
Dobson has had an opportunity at seeing plenty of reps this summer as the top of the receiving depth chart is a bit banged up: Both Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola remain on the physically unable to perform list; Chris Hogan appeared to suffer a shoulder injury on Sunday that kept him out of Monday's practice; Keshawn Martin has missed each of the last two Patriots training camp practices; and Nate Washington has not practiced since the first day of camp, when he became ill at the end of the session.
Because Edelman, Amendola, Hogan and third-round pick Malcolm Mitchell are seemingly locks to make the 53-man roster, Dobson could be in competition with Martin, Washington, Chris Harper, DeAndre Carter and Devin Lucien for one roster spot. He does not have the special-teams ability that some of those players do -- Martin, Harper and Carter have all been used as returners -- but Dobson does have a physical advantage over those players with his 6-foot-3, 210-pound frame.
The question is can he remain healthy and show enough consistency in his performance to warrant a spot on what should be a very deep position group? Even his coach is wondering.