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Possibly down to his last chance, Patriots WR Aaron Dobson makes plays

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- On the first day of the New England Patriots’ mandatory minicamp, Jimmy Garoppolo complimented one of his teammates for going up and making a play for him on a long, one-handed touchdown grab.

Then, on the final day of the minicamp, Tom Brady showed his appreciation for the same teammate after a touchdown catch, going out of his way to congratulate him with an embrace.

The player: wide receiver Aaron Dobson.

“It feels good when Tom comes over there and congratulates me,” Dobson said Thursday. “I’m just trying to do it all the time.”

That’s been the issue for Dobson, the 2013 second-round draft choice from Marshall who has slipped from highly touted prospect to fighting for a roster spot. Injuries and inconsistency have hurt him, and when ESPN’s NFL Nation recently listed one veteran from each team who was on the roster bubble in 2016, Dobson was the pick for New England.

Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan are locks, and fourth-round draft choice Malcolm Mitchell probably falls into that category as well. So is there room for Dobson?

He could make it a tough decision for Bill Belichick & Co. if he plays like he has the last two weeks, as he’s made several contested catches along the sideline and a few in the end zone.

“I think I’ve played well,” he said Thursday when asked how he’d assess his performance. “I’m just going to try to stay consistent with it and make the plays I can make.”

With Edelman (foot) and Amendola (knee, ankle) not yet practicing, the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Dobson has received many repetitions with the top group of receivers over eight spring practices. At one point this week, he worked on a side field with Brady and a few others during a special-teams portion of the practice.

What it all means come the Sept. 11 season opener is still in question because this isn’t the first time that Dobson has shined in spring drills, when players aren’t in pads and he doesn’t face any physical play at the line of scrimmage. It's when the pads come on that he begins to struggle. After a 37-catch season as a rookie, Dobson has dipped the last two years, totaling just 16 receptions.

Asked to characterize his career to this point, he paused briefly before saying, “It is what it is. I’m not trying to look back and think about my past. I’m just trying to move forward.”

So far, so good in 2016, but still a long way to go.