BOSTON (CBS) — Aaron Dobson is off the PUP list and back on the practice field for the New England Patriots, which is good news for the team’s offense.
But it’s not good news for other receivers trying to make the 53-man roster. Dobson’s return means someone in the Patriots’ crowded crop of wide receivers will likely be without a job by the end of camp.
The Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe joined 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich on Tuesday to break down the battles at wide receiver, and said it will likely come down to how second-year wide outs Josh Boyce and Kenbrell Thompkins finish the preseason.
“The last five years they’ve carried five wide receivers, not including (special teams captain) Matthew Slater, four of those years and four the other year. I think you have to cap it off at five,” said Howe. “I can see a scenario where they take six if Josh Boyce and Kenbrell Thompkins play great football over the next three weeks, but right now that’s not the case.
“Dobson, (Danny) Amendola, (Julian) Edelman and (Brandon) LaFell will make the team because they’re practicing well enough to deserve it, but also financial too,” said Howe. “Then you’re almost certain to see Kenbrell Thompkins will make the team. I haven’t liked the way he’s practiced over the last week. He hasn’t been as good as he was the first week, but Thompkins has been good enough to earn a spot. Boyce has not been as good, and Dobson’s return really hurts his chances.”
Howe did say he could see a scenario where the Patriots carry six receivers, but that would mean the depth elsewhere takes a hit.
“I can see them taking one less tight end or running back in order to get Boyce on the team if he picks it up,” he said, adding that Brian Tyms also has a chance to make the team. “A guy like Tyms has a bit of a luxury because he has that four-game suspension, so he won’t impact the 53 man roster. They’ll be able to carry him through week 4, and then a one week roster exception; in the event someone gets injured they can sneak him onto the roster.”
Rob Gronkowski missed last week’s joint practices with the Redskins, but was back on the field on Sunday. He was in a red no contact jersey when on the field on Monday, so is it even worth it to play Gronk this preseason? Howe doesn’t think so.
“There isn’t much of a need to in my opinion. Last year, he started practicing in Week 1 and was on the field in Week 7. He was about 50-percent when he made that debut, and he’ll get the same amount of practice time before he sees his first game as he did last year, give or take a couple of days,” explained Howe. “So you’re looking at the same timetable. If you throw him in Week 1 against Miami, you’re not going to expect a 100-percent Gronk. But what’s the benefit of playing him in that fourth preseason game? What’s the benefit of rushing him back to play against an aggressive Panthers defense in (preseason) Week 3 if the knee isn’t completely ready. It’s not an ideal situation, which is why I’d keep him out until Week 1.”
Howe also touched on the chances of cornerback Malcolm Butler making the team, and what to expect out of the Pats-Eagles joint practices at Gillette: