Without Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in the lineup at the beginning of the 2013 season, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady increasingly had to rely on rookie receivers like Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins.
At times, both played well during their first seasons, as they combined for 69 receptions and eight touchdowns.
Both will be counted upon heading into 2014, and for Dobson, who could make a play for a starting position this year, it sounds like the foot injury he suffered near the end of 2013 is no longer an issue.
And the team, according to Masslive.com, is optimistic that Dobson, who has missed all offseason workouts as he recovers from surgery, will be ready to play by training camp.
"The source added that it is still too early to be certain of Dobson's status, but this is the first time since his March surgery that anyone has spoke of his situation with optimism," reporter Nick Underhill wrote.
Dobson suffered a stress fracture that kept him out for three weeks toward the end of last season, and though he returned for the final game of the year, he re-aggravated the injury.
The team hoped to avoid surgery and was content to let him rest the foot. But in March, he was forced to undergo the procedure. He was supposed to miss the next two or three months, but it's been a longer recovery than that.
"It's doing better, man," Dobson told the Boston Herald on Tuesday. "It's getting better every day. Every week it's getting better, so we're just going to see where it's at by the time camp starts."
Training camp for New England begins July 24. Dobson didn't promise he'd be ready to play. But it sounds like he's getting closer nonetheless.