Fans of the hit television series Breaking Bad will recognize this quote from main character Walter White in the pilot episode: "Chemistry is, well technically, chemistry is the study of matter. But I prefer to see it as the study of change."
If we're studying the chemistry between rookie wide receiver Aaron Dobson and quarterback Tom Brady, we've already started to see that change.
Brady has targeted Dobson 10 times in each of the last two games—Dobson missed the opening game due to a hamstring issue—but the results have been wildly different.
Here are two plays that help show where Dobson can improve and how that process has already started.
Dobson is lined up as the "X" receiver in the formation, while the Buccaneers end up in Cover-1 Robber. Rookie cornerback Johnthan Banks is lined up in off-coverage, giving up a healthy cushion.
The Patriots playbook is renowned for its use of option routes, and I'm sure Dobson's route has many pre-snap and post-snap reads. Banks opens up his hips and bails, giving Dobson his first key to read as he stems his route up the field.
The "robber" safety is coming in to the circled area to pick off any ball thrown inside. Brady makes the right read and finds an open Dobson.
Dobson reads Banks dropping deep and cuts his route inside. He can either sit down right where he is or continue on the in route.
Dobson chose to sit down in his route, while Brady threw the ball further to the inside. Dobson is credited with the "drop" on this play, but in reality, it was more of a mental than physical mistake.
That is the sort of disconnect that isn't expected between Brady and his receivers. Both receiver and quarterback have to see things the same way, which only comes with practice.
With more reps, look for these sorts of instances to fade.
The situation here is fourth down and a long two. Dobson is lined up in an off-set stack with fellow rookie Josh Boyce on the line. Two Tampa Bay defensive backs—Darrelle Revis and Ahmad Black—are lined up across from them in what looks like man coverage.
Boyce stems to the inside, and Revis follows him. Dobson knows this should give him a free release to the outside with Black playing off.
Dobson cuts the route off at the perfect level. Any longer and Black would have been able to close and break up the play. Any sooner and he runs the risk of coming up short—Patriots fans know all too well about coming up an inch short on 4th-and-2.
Brady throws an accurate pass, and Dobson plucks it cleanly for the important fourth-down conversion.
It is telling that Brady felt comfortable enough to target Dobson on such an important play, which bodes well for Brady's confidence level in the 22-year-old rookie.
Whether Dobson and Brady form a long-term partnership—or end up with a soured relationship like Walter White and his former sidekick, Jesse—remains to be seen.
In Breaking Bad, White's alter-ego, "Heisenberg," controls everything. To drastically oversimplify things, when Jesse followed his directions, things worked out. In a similar vein, when everyone is on the same page with Brady, things tend to run smoothly.
For the time being anyway, this combination is finally starting to "break good."
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