Let’s give Phillip Dorsett his due – he’s been great for the Patriots this year

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 27: Wide receiver Phillip Dorsett #13 of the New England Patriots prepares for their game against the Cleveland Browns at Gillette Stadium on October 27, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 27: Wide receiver Phillip Dorsett #13 of the New England Patriots prepares for their game against the Cleveland Browns at Gillette Stadium on October 27, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images) /

Phillip Dorsett is well on his way to a career year this season – not just as a member of the New England Patriots, but as an NFL player as well.

Look up the word “underrated” in the New England dictionary of defense this season, and you’ll see a picture of Lawrence Guy staring you in the face. Do the same thing but with the encyclopedia of offense, and chances are you’ll find Phillip Dorsett II there.

One of the main reasons why Dorsett is so criminally underrated and underappreciated as a football player is because of his high draft stock. When you play wide receiver and you’re a first-round draft pick out of The University of Miami, and you end up on a team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations, and your quarterback is Andrew Luck, and you have T.Y. Hilton and Andre Johnson as your running mates, the expectation is that you produce quickly… or else.

Dorsett didn’t ball out as a rookie though in 2015. He had fewer than 20 catches and less than 230 yards in 11 games of action, and he scored just a single touchdown.

His playing time increased in 2016 with Johnson no longer in the picture, but his production didn’t quite correlate with the uptick in opportunities. Dorsett had just 33 catches for 528 yards and two scores playing in 15 games that year. Hilton led the league in receiving yards that season, yes, but he also regularly drew double coverage and extra safety help over the middle, which should have hypothetically opened the door for Dorsett to also feast in the Colts offense as the No. 2 option.

That wasn’t the case though, and five days before the 2017 regular season began, Dorsett was traded to the New England Patriots for then third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett. The Colts desperately needed a quarterback to hold down the fort with Luck out indefinitely because of a serious shoulder injury, but the trade still signaled that Indianapolis had officially given up on their former first-round pick in Dorsett.

That’s how “PD-13” arrived in Foxborough – as a draft bust who never lived up to lofty expectations. He joined a Patriots offense that was down Julian Edelman for the year but still had Rob Gronkowski, Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola, and Chris Hogan, plus talented pass-catching backs like James White, Rex Burkhead, and Dion Lewis.

Still, Dorsett struggled to make much of an impact during his debut season as a Patriot. He played in 15 games but tallied the lowest season receiving totals of his career: 12 catches on 18 targets for just 194 yards and zero touchdowns. His highlight that year was probably catching a 31-yard flea-flicker from Tom Brady in the Patriots’ AFC Championship Game comeback win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

In 2018, New England said goodbye to Cooks and Amendola, welcomed back Edelman, signed Cordarrelle Patterson, and drafted Sony Michel. Perhaps because he had a full offseason program to practice with Brady and the rest of the Patriots offense, Dorsett came into his second season with his second NFL team and immediately made more of a difference. He played in all 16 games for the first time in his career and caught 32 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns.

Dorsett’s real breakthrough as a Patriot may have occurred in the postseason last year, however. He caught four passes for 41 yards and a touchdown in New England’s victory over the L.A. Chargers in the divisional round, then followed up that performance with a 29-yard touchdown reception at Arrowhead Stadium in the Patriots’ thrilling overtime victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game.

He didn’t have any catches in Super Bowl LIII… but who really did besides Edelman anyway, right? And that one big catch by Gronk in the fourth quarter, of course.

So far in 2019, Dorsett is proving that his third season as a Patriot truly is the charm. Building off his success and chemistry with Brady during last season’s improbable playoff run, Dorsett absolutely exploded in Week 1 this year, catching all four of his targets for 95 yards and two touchdowns. He was nearly flawless through the first three weeks of the regular season, hauling in 13 of the 14 passes Brady threw his way; according to Dorsett, the one incompletion in Week 3 against the Jets should have stood as a catch too, for the record.

It’s now Week 12, and Dorsett continues to make a major impact on the Patriots this season. He’s third on the team in receptions, targets, and receiving yards, and he’s first in receiving touchdowns. His score last Sunday against the Eagles on a Julian Edelman trick play represented the difference in the Patriots escaping Philadelphia with a win.

He’s also doing all this despite suffering at least a pair of injuries since September.

A bum hamstring knocked him out of New England’s game against the Washington Redskins in Week 5 and caused him to miss the team’s Week 6 win over the New York Giants. He returned to action in Weeks 7-11, though he got knocked out of the Eagles game with a head injury after scoring the touchdown. Thankfully, it appears he was present at practice Wednesday as the Patriots get ready to host the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday this week.

Dorsett is well on his way to a career year – not just as a Patriot, but as an NFL player too. With six games left in the regular season, he already has 26 catches on 42 targets for 332 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Those totals put him on track to finish the year with 46 receptions for 590 yards and nine touchdowns. He’s already set a new career high for himself in TDs, and he’s just eight catches and 197 yards away from new milestones in those categories as well.

Is he Julian Edelman? Of course not – no one is, except for “The Squirrel” himself. Chances are most Patriots fans would still vastly prefer having Antonio Brown, Josh Gordon, or even Danny Amendola back over Dorsett if given the opportunity, and they’re not wrong for feeling that way. It’s also true that Mohamed Sanu and N’Keal Harry will probably garner more headlines and attention during the remainder of this season than Dorsett, no matter what he does.

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None of this really matters though, so long as Dorsett keeps playing like he has this season. He’ll continue to fly well beneath the NFL radar and even beneath the New England Patriots’ own radar while steadily working his way toward a career year. Especially in a season defined by offensive inconsistencies and Tom Brady’s growing frustrations with the pieces around him, it’s never been more important to have a reliable player like Dorsett on the team… whether people know it or not.