By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Phillip Dorsett has something that Jakobi Meyers, N'Keal Harry, and Demaryius Thomas still need to develop. And it's the most important quality in a Patriots receiver: a synced-up connection with Tom Brady.
In a suddenly crowded receiver group replete with size and physical talent, Dorsett's dependability should still be more than enough to keep him on the 53-man roster. It was on full display in Thursday's 10-3 win over the Panthers, when he caught all five of his targets from Brady for 41 yards.
Dorsett's 19-yard catch on second-and-28 in the first quarter demonstrated Brady's trust in him to be in the right spot. Brady saw that he had to get rid of the ball and uncorked it to Dorsett while barely even looking, and the catch set up a relatively manageable third-and-9. It would be a valuable play if a similar situation arises in a regular season game, one that the other aforementioned receivers haven't yet earned Brady's trust to execute.
Telling quote from Phillip Dorsett on this play with Brady: "that was one play that I knew where he wanted me to be so he really doesn’t need to know exactly where I’m at. He was under pressure and just threw it. He knew where I was going to be on that one.” #Patriots pic.twitter.com/HaW34RVMSz
— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) August 23, 2019
"Phillip is a guy that I’ve played a lot of football with, and I have a lot of trust in – experience is a great thing in football if you use it well, and I think our experience together pays off," Brady said after the game. "I read his body language. I think the great thing about Phil, he takes advantage of his opportunities. A lot of guys have been injured this preseason. Phil plays all three wide receiver positions, remembers all the coaching points from all the times we’ve talked about certain things. Even though he may not have done it, he goes in there and does it the way that Coach wants it done. I love playing with Phil."
None of Dorsett's catches popped off the screen, but they were executed flawlessly and gained the yards Brady wanted. Most importantly, Dorsett consistently got to where Brady expected him to be and the quarterback looked confident targeting him. That kind of reliability will prove valuable as the Pats' younger receivers work toward getting to his level of connection with No. 12.
"Sometimes if a quarterback trusts his receiver, he knows where you're going to be," Dorsett said after the game. "In that moment he can just throw it without even thinking, because he knows you’re going to be in that spot. He knows you’re going to be open. So, I try every day to just go out there and just build that trust and think like him when I'm out there, just be where he wants me to be."
Dorsett lacks the height of Thomas, the jump-ball prowess of Harry, the pure explosiveness of Josh Gordon. But he's certainly more experienced in the offense than the others, and his comfort has grown over two full offseasons putting in the work.
It should pay off on Sept. 1 when final cutdowns come for Bill Belichick. In what felt like an important game for his place in the Patriots offense and status on the receiver depth chart, Dorsett excelled in the most important aspect of all for Brady's targets. It's taken time, but Dorsett may finally be ready to consistently show what he did on Thursday over the course of the season. And even then, he'll continue to evolve with the team.
"I'm definitely feeling a lot more comfortable," Dorsett said. "That just comes with studying my playbook all day, just going out there practicing hard, working hard, getting all my reps in, mental reps when I’m not in. I would say I'm definitely getting a lot more comfortable.
"But, there’s still a long way to go. The offense continuously evolves, so there's always going to be something else ahead of me."
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].
Note: This story was updated with postgame remarks by Tom Brady.