Saturday was the first day of full-pads practice at New England Patriots training camp, and judging by the massive crowd, Patriot Nation was eager to see some tackling. Just missing the rain clouds before the conclusion of practice, it was another entertaining day at the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium, with plenty of ups and downs throughout.
—Brandon Lloyd continues to impress, making a lot of great catches in the deeper half of the field. The "Play of the Day" goes to Lloyd's deep catch down the sideline in what looked like tight coverage from Sterling Moore. Lloyd didn't look open, but he made an acrobatic leap toward the ball and brought it down securely. He looks like the real deal.
—Rookie linebacker Dont'a Hightower played a lot of strong-side and middle linebacker with the first team and made a number of aggressive tackles. One play that stood out was Hightower demolishing running back Brandon Bolden during an 11-on-11 drill.
—After suffering a sophomore slump after his Pro Bowl rookie season, it was nice to see Devin McCourty make a nice pass breakup deep down the field. The pass from Tom Brady was intended for Lloyd, but McCourty extended his left arm right before the ball got there and successfully batted it down. Let's hope McCourty can make plays like this more frequently going forward.
—Donte' Stallworth showcased his speed while beating cornerback Malcolm Williams for a long completion. It will be interesting to see if Stallworth makes the roster; he has a unique skill set that differs from his wide receiver counterparts.
—Despite looking competitive throughout the day, rookie defensive end Chandler Jones appeared to jump offsides once during drills.
—After drawing a couple of untimely pass interference calls last season in losses to both the Buffalo Bills and New York Giants, Sergio Brown appeared to commit a would-be pass interference penalty. With second-round draft pick Tavon Wilson and former San Diego Charger Steve Gregory added to the safety corps, Brown might be on the outside looking in when cut days come around.
—Moore is a promising young talent in the secondary, but he got beat a couple times today, most notably on a deep catch down the sideline by Lloyd (mentioned earlier).
—Wes Welker has looked amazing throughout camp (as usual), but he had a couple of uncharacteristic dropped passes in practice. I don't expect this trend to continue, but after that devastating dropped pass (or maybe it was a bad throw) in Super Bowl XLVI, those dropped passes stood out like a sore thumb.
—After cutting his chin, Rob Gronkowski was taken off the field for a short amount of time. Thank goodness it wasn't his ankle!
—Ras-I Dowling and Kyle Arrington seem to be splitting time at the starting cornerback spot opposite McCourty. However, Arrington was often moved to the slot in sub-packages.
—Patrick Chung and Stallworth were the top options for kick returners throughout practice. This is interesting as neither of the two have much experience in that role.
James will be attending various Patriots training camp practices in the coming weeks. Keep an eye out for his posts on Bleacher Report for more updates from camp!
For more Patriots updates and news, follow James on Twitter @JamesDiMaio.