Aaron Dobson more than just a footnote

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- On a night usually reserved for backups, the New England Patriots had one front-line player deliver in a big way. Welcome back, Aaron Dobson.

The wide receiver finished Thursday's preseason finale with three receptions for 57 yards, the highlight a 33-yard leaping touchdown catch on a high-arching pass from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo along the left sideline.

"He had a ‘go' route and went up and made a tremendous play for me," Garoppolo said of Dobson, who was making his preseason debut. "It's nice having receivers like that on the outside, big-bodied guys who can go up and make a play for you."

"He beat the guy and you just have to lay a ball up there for him to go get it and he did that."

Dobson utilized every inch of his 6-foot-3 body to make the play.

"That's just instinct," Dobson said. "At that point, I'm just not really worried about my foot -- just playing football."

Dobson underwent surgery for a stress fracture in his left foot March 10, and opened training camp on the active/physically unable to perform list. He returned to practice two weeks ago, and Thursday marked another step for him -- his first game action. He played 50 of 70 offensive snaps (including penalties).

"It felt good," Dobson said about his conditioning. "I got tired at times but I feel like I am improving."

"I'm glad I got out there this game. Glad I got my feet up under me just so I can get ready for the next game. It was needed for me to get out there today."

Head coach Bill Belichick was also glad to have his receiver back on the field after a long offseason of rehab work.

"It was good for him to be able to get some game action, to get out there and get hit a little bit and make a couple plays," Belichick said. "It's taken him a while -- he started off camp on the reserve [list] and came off and started to work his way back into practice, and was back on the field tonight.

"That was a positive."