The action picked up a bit Saturday morning on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium as the Patriots donned full pads for the third day of training camp practice.
Though no one would confuse the morning's work with game action, there were a few drills with more hitting and even a live goal line session.
It seemed that defensive players took most advantage of the opportunities on the day.
The contact got off to an impact start during one interior line running drill when Deatrich Wise Jr. hit running back Jeremy Hill so hard that the veteran newcomer flew backwards through the air – decleated as some may say – before landing on his back.
Wise was far from the only defender to make plays on the morning, though. Safety Duron Harmon – breaking in his new No. 21 jersey – had a pair of interceptions of Tom Brady in the end zone.
Harmon – known as The Closer for his knack in past years of ending games with an interception – took the first interception out of the middle of the end zone and down the right sideline before celebrating the would-be touchdown with a jumping hip-bump with safety Devin McCourty.
Later, in 11-on-11 action in the red zone, Harmon got to Brady's pass again when the quarterback was under pressure from Kyle Van Noy and tried to force the throw to Rob Gronkowski in tight coverage in the back of the end zone. Not only was Harmon in line for the pick, but Patrick Chung was also well-positioned for his own turnover had the ball gotten to him.
Overall the intensity if the morning session wasn't quite as high as might be expected of the first day in pads, but at least a few defenders certainly took full advantage of the opportunity. Offensively, there was also a lot more work in the running game, with bigger backs Hill, Mike Gillislee and Ralph Webb getting a few more ground chances along with the more versatile likes of Rex Burkhead, James White and Sony Michel.
Michel actually had one of the real highlights of the day for the offense when he scored via a second-effort run over right tackle in the live goal line segment. His score came just after Hill followed an impressive push by the interior offensive line for an easy touchdown of his own.
Check out our favorite photos from the third day of Patriots Training Camp at Gillette Stadium on Saturday, July 28, 2018.
Beyond the big plays on defense and added physicality that came with pads, here are one man's blogservations from the make-shift radio studio atop the bleachers at the end of the training camp practice fields:
--Newly-signed wide receiver Paul Turner was on the field and took part in his first Patriots practice wearing No. 86.
--Former Patriots wide receiver Tiquan Underwood and his massive high-top fade were once again on the practice field. Now a college coach, Underwood had a long conversation with receivers coach Chad O'Shea before the workout and took copious notes throughout that conversation and the entire practice.
--Rookie quarterback Danny Etling continues to be the first player on the field. He also is generally last to leave after extra post-practice throwing.
--The only players not taking part in the workout were Malcolm Mitchell and the guys on PUP – Cyrus Jones (ACL), Jonathan Jones, Nate Ebner (ACL), Matthew Slater and Kenny Britt. That group retreated to the lower rehab field for most of the morning. Britt was not seen on the field.
--Marcus Cannon returned to practice and his normal right tackle reps a day after leaving the field midway through Friday's session.
--Chung clutched at his knee and left the field with a slight limp after Harmon's second interception. Chung actually stayed on the field for one more rep of goal line. After practice the safety seemed no worse for the wear as he played on the field with family members.
--Trey Flowers appeared to suffer a cut to his forehead area on the last play of team defense on the goal line. He was attended to by the training staff and held a towel to the front of his head.
--Bill Belichick had a long chat with Michel during a pre-practice special teams segment.
--Wise's hit on Hill was by far the biggest of the day and in that specific interior running drill. No other running back was really hit in the drill and it's possible that the young defensive end exceeded the intended tempo of the drill. Wise was spoken to by an assistant coach after the hit, though from afar it was impossible to tell if he was congratulated or critiqued.
--Early in practice Etling led an offense of younger, less established players in a red zone segment on the near end of the field. Standing right behind the drill, Belichick and Nick Caserio paid close attention to the action.
--Etling had a tough day and has not thrown the ball well the last two days. He did, however, have an early touchdown throw in group to Chris Hogan, beating Stephon Gilmore.
--Cordarrelle Patterson continues to impress catching the ball. Early in group work he beat Duke Dawson with a strong catch from Brady as he fell to the ground in the left side of the end zone.
--Jordan Matthews has also caught the ball pretty well the last couple days. He had a nice grab from Brady early in practice, but later added a bad drop in the two-minute drill.
--Punt return was the focus of the day. The usual suspects of Julian Edelman, Braxton Berrios, Riley McCarron and Chung worked the returns.
--The vice guys were the most interesting part of the punt return work to watch. Eric Rowe worked double teams with Hogan. Then the McCourty twins – Devin and Jason – worked together for a twin killing on a scout gunner. Gilmore worked with Harmon.
--Speaking of Edelman -- who met with the media after practice and admits he still thinks about his surgically-repaired knee when he makes cuts – he looks quick and athletic in the return game.
--The first group of offensive linemen in most drills included left tackle Trent Brown, left guard Joe Thuney, center David Andrews, right guard Shaq Mason and right tackle Cannon. The next line group included left tackle Isaiah Wynn, left guard Ted Karras, center James Ferentz, right guard Cole Croston and right tackle LaAdrian Waddle. The third line group consisted of left tackle Matt Tobin, left guard Nate Theaker, center Luke Bowanko, right guard Jason King and right tackle Ulrick John. New England has three pretty experienced offensive line groups, which could show up later in preseason games against less proven defensive fronts.
--White had a pretty easy short touchdown run against a second-unit of scout defenders.
--Brandon King and Nicholas Grigsby spend portions of each day of practice working together with special teams coach Joe Judge while the rest of the team is spread out among other drills. King has been a core special teams guy since arriving in New England. It looks like Gribsby, who signed from the Ravens practice squad late last season, is also seen in a similar light.
--Rowe got a lot of the reps opposite Gilmore at cornerback throughout the workout. Dawson continues to get the high level reps in the slot, with mixed results.
--Lawrence Guy and Danny Shelton spent a lot of time working together at defensive tackle.
--Wise batted down an Etling pass in team action. It's at least the second pass defense for the end early in camp.
--Jason McCourty and undrafted rookie JC Jackson worked opposite each other at corner.
--One of the more competitive drills in full-pads practice is one-on-one pass rush battles between the offensive and defensive lines. Derek Rivers got the best of Waddle. Tobin beat Harvey Langi. Karras got the better of Dont'a Hightower. Trent Brown stonewalled Adrian Clayborn. Guy beat Andrews. Thuney more than held his own against Shelton.
--Patriots president Jonathan Kraft was on the field for much of the practice. He spent some time chatting with various players. He spoke with Brady for a few minutes while the quarterback was sitting out a drill. He also held court with the tight end position as a group at the end of the workout.
--Though he's given up some catches, Gilmore has gotten off to a solid start to camp. Even when beaten, he's very much in the area of the completion.
--During one goal line rep Brady badly underthrew an option route to the outside to Edelman leading to the incompletion.
--Chung had a nice pass defense on a corner route to Gronkowski in the left side of the end zone.
--Brian Hoyer was too late and off target on what should have been an easy completion to Dwayne Allen.
--Damarius Travis punched the ball out from Michel at the end of one run in team action. The first-round running back had some ball security issues at times in his college career and that has been a problem over the first few days of training camp. Definitely something to keep an eye on as the youngster works to carve out a role for himself on the offense this fall. Michel immediately had to run a penalty lap for today's fumble.
--One play apart both the entire defensive unit – including coaches – and entire offense had to run penalty laps during team work late in practice. It wasn't obvious exactly what infraction raised the ire of Belichick to earn the punishments.
--Equipment manager Brenden Murphy blows an air horn between segments of practice. Sometimes he does so without even pulling the horn out of his pocket, just blowing it while pointing his hip toward the sky.
--Hoyer completed a touchdown throw to Devin Lucien, beating Jason McCourty with a nice grab.
--Matthews drop in the two-minute drill late in practice came against a defense that was seemingly going at less than full speed. Hogan had a couple catches from Brady in the drill, including a touchdown to close it out.
--There was some special teams work on blocking kicks late in practice. The players doing the blocking batted down small soccer balls in the drill. Some did so against punts, others while diving onto a mat for would-be PATs/field goals.
--Practice closed with some "opportunity" work for the younger players, including an offense led by Etling and Webb.
--At the end of practice one fan yelled to Gronkowski, "Gronk, sign my baby!" This may have been a reference to a clip making the rounds on social media of Falcons running back Devonta Freeman in fact autographing a baby, well at least his shirt.
--Brady did a little post-practice extra throwing. First to Matthews, then to the son of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
--Both Brady and Edelman spoke with the media after practice, the first time they have met with the media in camp.
--New England is expected to return to the practice field again at 9:15 Sunday morning at Gillette Stadium.