BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots have their share of question marks heading into the 2015 season, but there’s a big one for the defending Super Bowl champs when it comes to their depth chart at wide receiver.
Three of Tom Brady’s top four options are currently on the shelf, with Julian Edleman, Brandon LaFell and Aaron Dobson all nursing injuries at the moment. Those ailments, in addition to Brandon Gibson and Brian Tyms both being lost for the season, led to Monday’s signing of 14-year veteran Reggie Wayne.
But all indications point to two of those targets coming back in the very near future, according to The Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe, who joined 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich on Tuesday morning to discuss the injured trio of receivers.
Dobson, now in his third year in New England, suffered a hamstring injury three weeks ago, but Howe says he’s been ready to return for about a week. The team is being extra cautious with Dobson, which is a good sign for a player many viewed as “on the bubble” to make the team.
“I was told a week ago he is ready to come back, but the team is being more cautious than they need to be by keeping him out that extra week. I’d be surprised if he wasn’t out there today,” said Howe. “Going along with that, for a guy people believe he is fighting for a job, if the team isn’t putting him out there when he thinks he’s ready, that’s a good sign for him.”
Edelman has also been working hard away from the team, and appears to be another case of the Patriots being overly cautious.
“Bill Belichick said about three or four weeks ago that he’s day-to-day but we haven’t seen him yet. I do believe, because he’s been working out close to the practice field with his rehab and conditioning, that he’s very, very close,” said Howe. “With him, he knows the offense so well and is so important to Brady, there is no need to rush him back. You make sure that ankle is right.”
LaFell has been nursing a foot injury he suffered last postseason, and reportedly just came out of a walking boot over the weekend. But the amount of time he’s missed during camp and the preseason is a bit of a concern as the regular season draws closer.
“With LaFell I’m not aware of any setbacks, but the thing you start to worry about is he missed the entire nine week offseason workout program, he’s missed every one of the 16 training camp practices, and how in-sync can he get with Brady when he gets back with such a quick turnaround before the regular season. He clearly had a lot of success with Brady last year, but it didn’t really hit tis stride until Week 3 of Week 4,” said Howe. “There is some concern with LaFell with how quickly he can come back and contribute.”
That brings us to Wayne, who at 36-years-old was cast away by the Colts and went unsigned by ever other team in the NFL. But given his track record as a great route-runner, Howe thinks he’ll fit into a smaller role in New England.
“I strongly believe any time you can bring in a future Hall of Famer on short money, when you’re having an injury problem on your depth chart, you absolutely do it. This guy is the best route runner of his generation, and Tom Brady can work with that,” he said. “He’s obviously lost a step, but if he runs good routes he is going to find ways to get open when you have a quarterback as accurate at Tom Brady. If he catches 35-40 passes, that’s a win. If everyone is healthy, with [Rob] Gronkowksi and [Scott] Chandler included, he is their fifth or sixth option on most weeks.”