The New England passing game hasn't exactly been dominant in recent days.
Some of that is normal in the early stages of the process of getting the timing down. Some of it is that fact that the quarterbacks, namely Jimmy Garoppolo, haven't exactly been lighting it up with quick decisions and accurate throws. Heck, even the much-questioned secondary in New England deserves credit for the job it's done in the early days of camp competition.
But one factor has also been the reality that the list of targets for Tom Brady and his backup to toss to has been a bit thinned out by injury. That took another hit on Thursday afternoon as third-year receiver Aaron Dobson joined the list of absentees for New England's two-hour afternoon session that took place in full pads under sunny skies.
It was the first day Dobson has missed this summer as he looks to bounce back from a second season in which he began and ended the season injured and only saw action in four games. That came after he missed basically all of the 2014 offseason and summer work with a foot injury.
Now, Dobson joins Brandon LaFell (PUP), Julian Edelman and Brian Tyms sidelined to injury at this point.
The absences have allowed a number of other targets to get extensive reps. Danny Amendola has had a very strong summer. Thursday, Josh Boyce had maybe his best practice in New England. He caught nearly everything thrown his way a day after lighting up the Gillette Stadium night practice with a couple big plays.
Veteran Brandon Gibson has also flashed with some impressive plays in recent days, including a nice deep ball on the right sideline from Brady on Thursday.
Check out our favorite photos from Patriots Training Camp at Gillette Stadium on Thursday, August 6, 2015.
The passing game hasn't exactly been cruising and the injuries costing key targets reps are less than ideal. But it has given other players a chance to get a little extra run and Boyce, in particular, has taken advantage with some impressive practice production.
Beyond the thinning numbers in the receiving ranks for practice in Foxborough, here are one man's blogservations of an energetic afternoon workout:
--A total of 17 players missed the workout
--Six players remain on PUP (Matthew Slater, Brandon LaFell, Dane Fletcher, Chris White, Ryan Wendell and Chris Jones). Three guys remain on NFI (Matt Flynn, Caylin Hauptmann and Alan Branch).
--Those players not practicing included Edelman, Dobson, Dion Lewis, Tyler Gaffney, Darius Fleming, Marcus Cannon, Joe Vellano and Brian Tyms. Dobson was the new addition to the group.
--LaFell was seen walking off the field at the end of the workout, the first sighting of camp for the veteran. He was not wearing the walking boot he was in earlier this offseason. He also did not appear to have a limp.
--A crew of NFL game officials was on hand for the afternoon workout. The zebras took part in most drills and called a number of penalties throughout the session, including pass interference on both offensive and defensive players at various times.
--It was Military Appreciation Day, with the Patriots Charitable Foundation hosting a number of service men and women in its tent at the far end of the field. Members of all five branches were in attendance in uniform, welcomed as guests of the team.
--The Patriots announced a few transactions. The team cut recently-claimed offensive lineman Harland Gunn. The team signed offensive lineman Mark Asper (6-6, 321) and tight end Mason Brodine (6-7, 270). Both players were on the field and took pretty significant reps in the practice, Asper wearing No. 72 and seeing action at right tackle, while Brodine wore No. 44. The 29-year-old Asper has previously spent time as a sixth-round pick with the Bills, Vikings, Jaguars, Giants, Broncos and Dolphins. Brodine is a 27-year-old former undrafted rookie who's been with the Raiders and Rams.
--Early in practice Brady did some group work with Amendola, Boyce, Chris Harper, Zach D'Orazio and Gibson. The receivers worked some 1-on-1s against the defensive backs.
--Brandon King and Matthew Wells continue spend a ton of time throughout every practice working with special teams coach Joe Judge.
--Gibson was flagged by the officials for pushing off on an early reception in group action.
--Gronkowski wore a black sleeve on his right arm, the one he was flexing and favoring late in practice on Tuesday. He also wore his usual large black brace on his left arm, taking his most extensive reps since Tuesday.
--With Cannon absent again (and Sebastian Vollmer clearly still not ready for practice reps with contact), Cameron Fleming continues to take the bulk of the right tackle reps opposite Nate Solder.
--Veteran linebacker Jonathan Freeny, known as a career special teamer, continues to get decent reserve reps on defense in practice. He did a nice job filling and taking on James Develin in one 9-on-7, interior running game segment.
--Danny Amendola and Jonathan Krause took punt return reps.
--Travaris Cadet and Robert McClain got good reps at gunner in the punt work.
--New Patriots Hall of Fame inductee and NFLN reporter Willie McGinest got an up-close view of practice watching from between the two practice fields. He spent time chatting with Brady at one point during a punt drill.
--MLS and Revs star Jermaine Jones was watching the practice from the friends and family tent on the hill next to the practice fields.
--Undrafted rookie tight end Jimmay Mundine walked off the practice field and returned to Gillette Stadium after getting injured relatively early in the session.
--Patrick Chung has struggled in coverage at times early in camp, but he did have a pass defense of a Brady throw intended for Gronkowski in early drills on Thursday.
--Brady had to pull the ball down and rush for a touchdown in a red zone segment of 7-on-7. Despite the "score," that goes down as a win for the defense in action without a defensive front.
--The Patriots running backs had a number of nice runs in the practice, bursting through the second level. That included Brandon Bolden, Travaris Cadet and LeGarrette Blount.
--Cadet had a bad missed assignment in pass protection in an 11-on-11 drill for Brady. That's an area he clearly needs to prove himself in as the preseason nears.
--Malcolm Butler was once again at left cornerback for most team reps, with Logan Ryan on the other side and McClain seeing plenty of time in the slot. In fact, Butler has seemingly taken just about every rep at left corner with the Devin McCourty-led unit since he was thrown on the practice field this spring after being held out of practices. That of course was the spot held down by Darrelle Revis last season.
--There were two separate open-field tackling drills during special teams segments.
--A Garoppolo throw intended for tight end Jake Bequette went right to Tavon Wilson for what would have been a pick-six thanks to the target and passer clearly not being on the same page.
--Josh Kline once again took some reps at center. He had a botched snap with Garoppolo that led to the two players doing a penalty lap.
--The entire defensive roster took two penalty laps in a row after jumping offside twice during down-and-distance, 2-min drill field goal attempt from the 1-yard line.
--The Patriots will return to the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium again on Friday at 1:45 p.m. for another camp session that is open to the public. As always, check Patriots.com for any potential last minutes schedule changes.