FOXBOROUGH – The Patriots officially kicked off the 2013 season Friday morning with their first official practice of training camp, and the surprisingly cold air and rain in the middle of summer made it feel like football is in the air.
Coming into the year, the Patriots have a lot of new faces to work with, including players signed in free agency, players acquired in trades, and others who are brand new to the NFL and are getting their first taste of pro football.
Three of the Patriots rookies this season, linebacker Jamie Collins and receivers Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce, were on full display for the first time and gave Patriots fans a look at the future of the team.
Collins, taken with the Patriots’ first pick in the draft at 52d overall, practiced subbing in and out of the first team defense. He was looked at from all different linebacker positions, and extensively worked dropping back into coverage for most of practice, not spending as much time working on the pass rush.
He looked strong on defending the passes that came his way, including a pass deflection at the end of practice on a throw intended for tight end Michael Hoomanawanui. He also practiced on special teams Friday, blocking up front on the kickoff receiving side.
Dobson, the Patriots’ second pick of the draft just seven picks behind Collins, projects to possibly be a starting wide receiver for quarterback Tom Brady. Dobson worked with the first team offense along with Danny Amendola and Kamar Aiken, seeing time both on the outside and in the slot.
He made catches off throws from all three quarterbacks, but looked especially comfortable with Brady throwing to him. Dobson had a deep catch on the outside from Brady late in practice, as well as a one over the middle from Ryan Mallett. Dobson also saw time working on special teams, running as a gunner on the outside during kickoffs.
Boyce, taken in the fourth round with the 102d overall pick, saw more time learning the ropes of a pro offense. He played more on the outside, and was seen working with the second team offense directed by Mallett. He had a catch over the middle from Tim Tebow, but also had a few drops as well. Boyce did not see time on the special teams, and looks to be fighting for a spot as the fourth or fifth wide receiver.