Top NFL Rookie of Week 9: Patriots WR Aaron Dobson
All of the focus was on the healthy return of veteran pass-catchers Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola but the rookie from Marshall wound up being Tom Brady's favorite target against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Each Tuesday of the NFL season NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst Rob Rang will identify his Rookie of the Week. To qualify, the first-year professional player must have played a significant role in a competitive NFL game, demonstrating not just flashes of talent but the potential to emerge as a legitimate long-term standout. The player's draft status -- whether as a former first round pick or undrafted free agent -- does not apply.
The first eight weeks of the NFL season and Tom Brady hardly looked like himself.
There were all kinds of theories as to why the future Hall of Famer was struggling. Clearly, the loss of Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Lloyd played a role. The extended recovery of Rob Gronkowski and inability of Danny Amendola to remain healthy also contributed to the worst start (statistically-speaking) of Brady's career.
Frankly, it was beginning to appear as if the trust that the Patriots had placed in rookie wideouts Kenbrell Thompkins , Josh Boyce and Aaron Dobson was ill-founded.
All appears well again in Foxborough, however, with Brady and his Patriots exploding for 55 points November 3 against the Steelers, the most points Pittsburgh has ever allowed.
And while there is plenty of credit to go around, no pass catcher played a more critical role in New England's (7-2) breakthrough performance than Dobson, who collected five passes for 130 yards and two touchdowns.
His two scores were not only well-run routes against a veteran defense, they also came at critical moments in the fourth quarter to extend the Patriots' lead in a game televised by CBS and one that was much closer than its 55-31 final score indicated.
Dobson's first touchdown came on a beautifully thrown back-shoulder fade from Brady down the left sideline. Facing bump and run coverage from veteran cornerback William Gay , Dobson used an effective hesitation move to get Gay leaning, then sprinted upfield, allowing the Pittsburgh cornerback to take away the inside. Just as Dobson crossed the endzone line he stopped, twirled back and caught the pass, giving Gay no time to react to Brady's strike. The 17-yard touchdown came with 13:46 remaining in the fourth quarter and with the Patriots nursing just a 27-24 lead.
Dobson's second score of the game (and third touchdown in the past two weeks) came off another beautifully thrown pass from Brady down the left sideline. This time, the Steelers dedicated two defensive backs to the rookie but the rookie was able to run through an initial jam from Ike Taylor and track a deep ball over his right shoulder just before safety Ryan Clark closed. Then Dobson, 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds showed a second gear that clearly caught the Steelers' safety by surprise, racing past him to score the 81-yard touchdown with 5:15 remaining that essentially ended any chance of Pittsburgh coming back in this contest.
Dobson's emergence isn't entirely surprising. It has, however, taken longer than some anticipated.
The Patriots are just happy that the rookie's performance came when it did. The offense hasn't always been pretty in New England so far in 2013 but with the Patriots resting this week on bye and once again atop the AFC East at 7-2, Dobson's emergence could be just what Belichick, Brady and Co. have been waiting for.
Rookie of the Week Archives:
Week One: Carolina Panthers DT
Week Two: Houston Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins
Week Three: New York Jets QB Geno Smith
Week Four: Buffalo Bills ILB Kiko Alonso
Week Five: Green Bay Packers RB Eddie Lacy
Week Six: Detroit Lions TE Joseph Fauria
Week Seven: Washington Redskins TE Jordan Reed
Week Eight: Arizona Cardinals RB Andre Ellington
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