If Tom Brady has any say, then he’s already found his No. 3 wide receiver when Julian Edelman returns from his four-game suspension.
And he goes by the name of Phillip Dorsett.
The Patriots acquired Dorsett in the trade that sent quarterback Jacoby Brissett to the Indianapolis Colts before last season. Dorsett played in 15 games with the Pats last year, but had just 12 receptions for 194 total yards and no touchdowns. However, in Sunday’s 27-20 win over the Houston Texans to begin the 2018 season, Dorsett had seven receptions for 66 yards and a touchdown.
That type of production shouldn’t be overlooked, not even with the Patriots signing wide receivers Corey Coleman and Bennie Fowler earlier this week.
Fowler entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 2014, signing with the Denver Broncos. After spending his rookie season on the Broncos’ practice squad, Fowler had only 56 total receptions in his three full seasons in Denver from 2015-2017.
Coleman might be more of a threat to Dorsett on the depth chart. He was drafted in the first round — 15 overall — by the Cleveland Browns in 2016. But the whole world saw him get cut by the Browns this offseason after he stormed into coach Hue Jackson’s office and asked why he was practicing with the second-team offense.
“If you don’t want me to play, why won’t ya’ll just trade me?” Coleman asked, though, it was more of a statement than a question.
So the Browns did just that, and wasted no time sending Coleman to Buffalo for a 2020 seventh-round draft pick. The Bills then cut Coleman right before the regular season began, leading to him signing with the Patriots this week.
That doesn’t mean he’ll steal Dorsett’s spot either, but it’s worth noting Coleman was a first-round talent not too long ago.
But the same goes for Dorsett, was drafted in the first round — 29 overall — in 2015 by the Colts. In two seasons in Indianapolis, Dorsett had a combined 51 receptions for 753 yards and three touchdowns.
As the Patriots look to add reliable depth to their roster at the wide receiver position — and I stress the word “reliable” — it does seem somewhat meaningless to compare these guys’ stats from previous years. Because when it comes to the Patriots, there’s only one thing that matters: Brady’s trust.
It’s something you’ve got to earn. Just ask those who have come and gone without being able to build that type of on-field relationship with the greatest quarterback of all time. Will Fowler have it? Not sure. How about Coleman? No idea.
You know who does seem to have earned Brady’s trust though? Dorsett.
With Edelman out, Dorsett was the Patriots’ No. 2 wide receiver on the depth chart entering last Sunday’s Week 1 game against the Houston Texans. He finished maybe as No. 1 — outside of Rob Gronkowski, of course, who is obviously Brady’s go-to weapon. But for the sake of the “depth chart” conversation, Gronkowski is listed as a tight end.
My biggest takeaway from Sunday’s win over Houston was that Brady likes Dorsett. I mean, he really likes throwing to Dorsett. And Dorsett has the speed and athleticism to be a dangerous weapon in the Patriots’ offense. Even when Edelman gets back.
So while some eyes will be on newcomers like Coleman and Fowler and maybe even on Cordarrelle Patterson, and while others — like myself — might want to keep an eye on Dez Bryant’s status as a free agent or the inevitable Larry Fitzgerald trade rumors, it’s quite possible that the Patriots won’t realistically look any further than Dorsett to fill a huge void on their depth chart. That is, if Brady has any say about it.
And based on what we saw this past Sunday against the Texans, he sure as heck does.