(Every day at training camp, we'll recap the day with a final blog post.)
Top storyline: Another highly competitive joint practice with the Eagles at the NovaCare Complex. The practice was moved from 12:30 p.m. to 10:15 a.m. because of the threat of lightning, and the Patriots' vertical passing game was a point of emphasis. Rookie receiver Aaron Dobson made the play of the day, beating triple coverage and catching the football at its highest point on a long bomb connection from quarterback Tom Brady.
No changes on injury front: As was expected, there were no changes on the injury front. The same players who didn't practice Tuesday were also out today -- cornerback Ras-I Dowling; receivers Michael Jenkins and Mark Harrison; safety Nate Ebner; offensive linemen Dan Connolly, Marcus Cannon, Tyronne Green, Markus Zusevics and Kevin Haslam; tight end Rob Gronkowski; defensive lineman Armond Armstead; and defensive end Jermaine Cunningham.
Rookie WRs create excitement along sideline: After Dobson's big catch, parts of the Patriots' sideline erupted, led by cornerback Aqib Talib. It happened again after a big catch by fellow rookie Kenbrell Thompkins. Between Dobson and Thompkins, as well as tight end Zach Sudfeld, the rookies were playing a big role in the passing game. Another practice, another day in which the picture at receiver is starting to come into focus -- Danny Amendola, Dobson, Thompkins, Josh Boyce and Julian Edelman project as the top five.
Players getting a longer look: A few players saw their repetitions increase as a result of injuries to others, or perhaps because the coaching staff wanted to take a closer look. Rookie cornerback Logan Ryan was bumped up to the top group at times (Kyle Arrington was sidelined for parts of practice), while rookie free-agent defensive lineman Cory Grissom took reps next to Vince Wilfork at one point in 11-on-11 drills. Also, rookie safety Duron Harmon elevated to the No. 4 spot. A lot of evaluation going on.
Don't forget about the defense: With so much attention placed on the Patriots' receiving corps, the development of the defense has flown under the radar. That changed a bit Wednesday as most of the players speaking with reporters were defenders, a group including safety Devin McCourty, Rob Ninkovich and Aqib Talib. On ESPNBoston.com, a piece focusing on the defense was written, as expectations for the unit have been raised. To read the piece, CLICK HERE.
Eagles viewpoint: Both teams worked their up-tempo offense, with Eagles coach Chip Kelly saying, "I thought today was better than yesterday." Kelly also discussed what it's like practicing against the Patriots. "The learning experience is pretty good. You know, [Tom Brady] is obviously one of the great quarterbacks to ever play this game, not just in the league right now. When you go to the history of the game, his name is right there. You'd better be where you're supposed to be when you're supposed to be there or he's going to get you. And I think that was a great challenge for us."
Quote of note: "It’s fun, man. It’s the NFL, man. You watch Tom Brady throw bombs. He’s on my team. Hey man, that’s fun. The young wideouts out there making plays -- AD [Aaron Dobson] and KT [Kenbrell Thompkins], they’re downfield making plays on the ball, man. That’s fun. They get the crowd into it. I’m part of the crowd. I’m a fan when I’m on that sideline, watching Tom. I’m a fan like everybody else." -- cornerback Aqib Talib on his excitement at practice.
Summing it up: Both coaches have raved about the joint practice setup. Unlike Tuesday, when Eagles cornerback Cary Williams and Dobson sat for the second half of practice after Williams appeared to start a scrap, there were no scraps on Wednesday. The closest it came to that was during 11-on-11 drills when Patriots left guard/enforcer Logan Mankins stayed after an Eagles player who Mankins might have felt was a little aggressive with Brady. The Patriots' offense didn't seem to be as sharp throughout Wednesday's practice, but the unit had set a high bar on Tuesday. It was still impressive to watch, especially the young receivers in the vertical passing game.