New England Patriots wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, now in his third year with the team, is emerging as one of quarterback Tom Brady’s most trusted weapons.
These are but a few of the names who were expected to shoulder more of the offensive load for the Patriots this year. But Gronkowski retired, Thomas was traded to the Jets, and Brown… well, surely you’ve heard all about that by now.
With so much talent gone from the New England offense, coordinator Josh McDaniels and veteran quarterback Tom Brady have had to look in more unlikely places to find the necessary sparkplugs for their points-scoring engine. Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon have both risen to the occasion – as has running back Rex Burkhead – but the standout surprise story of the early regular season has to be Phillip Dorsett.
After just three weeks of action, Dorsett already has more receptions than he did through his first 15 games as a Patriot back in 2017. He also has just seven fewer yards at this point, and he’s already equaled his touchdown total from that season (three)… the same number he had last year, as well.
Since coming into the league as a first-round draft pick by the Colts back in 2015, Dorsett has never caught more than 33 balls in a season, nor has he eclipsed 528 receiving yards or three touchdowns. If he keeps up his current pace, he could finish 2019 with new career highs in all those categories: he projects for 69 receptions, 997 yards, and 16 touchdowns.
Will he hit all those marks? Probably not. The touchdown total seems particularly out-of-reach, and it would truly be remarkable for any player – even one as talented as Dorsett – to suddenly challenge for 1,000 yards on a season after never previously coming close to half of that sum, even with a team like the Patriots.
Still, Dorsett has been set up nicely for a tremendous season. As USA Today’s Henry McKenna notes, Dorsett’s dramatic improvement hasn’t been lost on his Hall of Fame-bound quarterback, either.
“(Dorsett’s) done a great job for us and he’s making a lot of plays for us, we put him all over the field, and [he] just continues to improve,” Brady told reporters Wednesday. “I think this has been a big year for Phil. He’s worked really hard, put himself in a great position to take advantage of his opportunities, and he’s certainly done it. So, everyone’s happy for Phil. Nobody deserves it more than him, and he’s going to need to keep doing it.”
That last part of Brady’s quote is important. He’s acknowledging that even though Dorsett is off to a blazing-hot start to the season, he’ll need to maintain that performance over the rest of the year.
The Patriots don’t have as many weapons on offense this season as they have in certain seasons past, so the team can ill afford to lose him – whether that be to injury or just to fading play down the stretch.