New England Patriots' wide receiver Aaron Dobson was absent from team practice on Tuesday, according to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald. Dobson, a rookie, is dealing with a foot injury. Dobson aggravated a stress fracture in his left foot in Week 17 against the Buffalo Bills.
Dobson had a week off to recover thanks to the fact that the Patriots hold the No. 2 seed in the AFC and thus, a first-round bye in the playoffs. Unfortunately, it's uncertain when he'll return to practice or if he'll be ready to go for the team's Saturday night matchup against the Indianapolis Colts in the divisional round.
As noted by Howe, there was another receiver on the field, this one wearing jersey No. 84. It's unclear who this player is or if he's already replaced Dobson at this point.
On the season, Dobson has caught 37 of the 74 passes thrown his way, for 519 yards and four touchdowns. Tom Brady and the Patriots' offense hasn't been the same this year as in recent years, and that does have a lot to do with the fact that the Patriots had significant injuries on the offensive side of the ball for much of the season.
Dobson saw 39 targets over the first six weeks of the season, while the team was trying to get healthy at wide receiver. He definitely looked like a rookie at times, but in all, Dobson performed much better than expected. He's fallen off in recent weeks due to injury and the fact that the Patriots are pretty much healthy at this point. He's caught just two passes over his last two games.
Brady's stats haven't suffered with Dobson out of the picture. That probably has a lot more to do with just how good Brady and this Patriots offense happens to be than Dobson not being good enough to make an impact. Brady's second-highest single game passing total came in a game in which Dobson did not play, when the Patriots took down the Cleveland Browns in Week 14.
At this point, the Patriots will go with Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman as their starting receivers, with Kenbrell Thompkins and Dobson being the primary backups. Thompkins is a fellow rookie and will benefit the most from a potential absence by Dobson. Thompkins has 32 receptions for 466 yards and four touchdowns on the season.
Dobson being gone for a playoff game could mean that wide receiver Austin Collie sees some playing time. Collie was recently re-signed by the team wen Josh Boyce was placed on injured reserve. Collie has bounced around the NFL in recent years and hasn't provided a whole lot of impact, but he knows the Patriots' system. Either way, the team likely won't go that deep with the depth chart if Dobson is unavailable.