FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Some observations from the first day of Patriots training camp, a two-plus-hour session conducted today on the practice fields outside Gillette Stadium under a steady rainfall.
It was held in helmets and T-shirts, in accordance with the NFL's collective bargaining agreement. The team will begin full-pads practices on Sunday, at which point we'll be able to evaluate the players far more comprehensively.
* Weather played a significant factor, especially in the passing game. A number of players dropped passes and the quarterbacks had some struggles with accuracy. Players like to start training camp on a positive note, but the wet conditions made that difficult.
* Running back Brandon Bolden was back on the field after missing offseason workouts with a sprained ankle, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. Bolden looked spry and back to full strength, a good sign for the second-year running back who is in the mix among a crowded backfield.
* Early in practice, there was a rotation of drills among defensive players, and it was noteworthy to see the defensive backs start with form tackling work on the one-man sled. Tackling is something a team can always get better at, and though the secondary's primary responsibilities often involve defending the pass, having reliable tacklers is essential.
* The Patriots made headlines last year when they used tennis rackets to help simulate the reach of Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt in advance of a pair of matchups. The rackets were out again Friday; this time they were used during individual drills for the wide receivers. As a concentration test, the rackets were waved in front of the receivers as they were attempting to catch a pass. Combine that with the rain and the receivers had their work cut out for them.
* Tough start to the day for WR Quentin Sims, a recently signed undrafted rookie. He struggled with drops early, which appeared to make him rethink the decision to wear gloves in the rainy conditions. He settled in eventually.
* Among the most important developments of the day, from this vantage point, was having rookie wide receiver Josh Boyce on the field. Boyce, who was severely limited in the offseason by a foot injury, is a natural hands catcher with smooth movements and precision to his routes. That's consistent with what we saw in his college film. Assuming his foot is 100 percent, look for the fourth-round draft pick to continue to compete for reps.
* Not sure that we'd call LeGarrette Blount lightning quick, but he appeared to have a little more quickness on Day 1 of camp than he did during offseason work. Speed and elusiveness aren't his game, but it appears he's arrived in camp in good shape. He even got some work as one of the deep men on the kickoff-return unit, which was the special-teams focus of the day.
* Defensive lineman Marcus Forston was also moving around very well, especially during special-teams drills. He served as one of the up-men on kickoff return, a testament to his ability to play in space.
* As mentioned, the team focused on kickoff returns on special teams today. Leon Washington figures to be a top candidate to assume kick-return duties, and a couple of things stood out from his reps. First, he handles the football extremely well. Additionally, he runs with a narrow, track athlete-like base. That helps him navigates through tight creases.
* Though the rain affected each of the quarterbacks, it also allowed Ryan Mallett to showcase his arm strength. He drove a few impressive throws into tight windows. He can really sling it, though it came with an occasional misread.
* Veteran Kyle Arrington earned some time opposite Aqib Talib in the Patriots' base defense, though Alfonzo Dennard was worked in as the second cornerback on occasion. In addition, Arrington was moved inside into a slot alignment when the team utilized some of its defensive subpackages.
* Tim Tebow had struggles on Friday, starting with a delayed read on his first 7-on-7 rep. Tebow short-armed a few throws, had some passes deflected, and forced a couple throws into coverage, one of which was picked off by safety Nate Ebner. What also stood out about Tebow is his ability to break the pocket. His movement skills are unique for the quarterback position, as many know.
* The Patriots unveiled a new drill (at least to me) that simulates open-field tackling (they did not tackle, however). A receiver would be aligned next to a pair of defenders, one of which would follow him as he received a pass, the other of which would retreat and then attempt to tag him in an open-field alley. Tebow was used in this drill, which we wouldn't take as a definite indication that he'll be used at a position other than quarterback. Rather, it's just another opportunity for the team to see him work in space.
* For those with an interest in the intangibles: Veteran safety Adrian Wilson appears to have asserted himself quickly as a leader, greeting his teammates with high-fives and support as they came to the sideline. Seems that he'll have an impact off the field as well as on it.
* Will Svitek got some reps on the left side of the line; he could be a capable swing tackle to back up both Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer. Though Dan Connolly was back on the field after offseason shoulder surgery, Marcus Cannon also got some time at right guard.