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Sunday, July 28, 2013
Observations from 3rd practice

By Field Yates

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Sunday was the debut of full-pads practice for the Patriots during their 2013 training camp, which allowed for the tempo to pick up and for us to get a better look at the linemen during contact drills.

Below are some observations from the on-field workout, which will be supplemented by Mike Reiss' recap of the offensive and defensive lines' 1-on-1 work.

1. Good day of work from undrafted rookie receiver Kenbrell Thompkins. He continues to show an ability to get open on the perimeter and release off the line of scrimmage. He has a tall, almost lanky build (he managed just eight reps on the bench press at the combine), but he hasn't seemed overwhelmed by the opportunity to take first-team reps in the early going.

2. The defensive backs and wide receivers congregated early in practice to work on jams/releases at the line of scrimmage. Defensively, Kyle Arrington had a strong showing, stunting a few receivers at the line of scrimmage and doing well not to cross over in his footwork. On offense, veteran Michael Jenkins isn't a quick-twitch athlete, but he uses his long frame well to get on top and stack defensive backs.

3. Strong day catching the ball by tight end Michael Hoomanawanui. He started the day off with a seam-stretching one-handed catch against air (no defense), and looked comfortable throughout the day. Fellow veteran Daniel Fells has looked sharp thus far too. Reps at the tight end spot seem to be wide open without Rob Gronkowski on the field.

4. Throughout the offseason, our sense was that the strong safety job next to Devin McCourty (the presumptive starter at free safety) was a three-man race between Steve Gregory (the incumbent starter), Adrian Wilson and Tavon Wilson. Though it's still early, it might not be too soon to draw a line in the sand and proclaim a two-man duel between Gregory and the elder Wilson. We've seen Tavon Wilson work more with the opportunity group.

5. When Brian Daboll was rehired to the Patriots coaching staff, it was unclear exactly what role he would take on. He was spotted working with the offensive line during organized team activities and minicamp, an area he's continued to work in during the start of camp. But we've also seen Daboll work extensively with Tim Tebow. Daboll is a trusted offensive mind who has served as a coordinator and quarterback coach in previous stops. His tutelage should pay off for Tebow.

6. We've seen quite a bit of Marcus Cannon working among the starting offensive line at right guard thus far, but our sense is it's too soon to make any hardline estimates about who will start at the position when the season begins. Veteran Dan Connolly, in the second year of a three-year contract, appears to not be 100 percent quite yet coming off of shoulder surgery. While Cannon has looked sharp so far, his status within the top group is also tied into Connolly's health.

7. The Patriots did just a bit of live tackling on Sunday, working through an open field drill for a handful of minutes. Not much stood out in an overly positive or negative way, but rookie linebacker Steve Beauharnais earns high marks for a clean, form tackle of Jake Ballard. Solid work from the seventh-rounder.

8. We also saw some goal-line action today, four plays in total. Stevan Ridley took the first two carries (with Tom Brady under center), while LeGarrette Blount took the final two carries (with Ryan Mallett at quarterback). Ridley fumbled on the second carry, leading to a Vince Wilfork scoop and return that drew applause from the crowd. The fumble also resulted in Ridley taking a lap, as ordered by head coach Bill Belichick.

9. Saw some left guard action for Will Svitek today (working among the starters to give Logan Mankins a breather). Our belief was he was a swing tackle, but the more versatility he can bring will aid his chances of sticking on the roster.

10. Actor Robert Duvall was present at practice, watching with his wife. Former Patriots receiver Troy Brown watched practice from the field, while SiriusXM NFL Radio is broadcasting live with Pat Kirwan and Tim Ryan on site.