Day Three was an interesting day in Foxboro as we saw full pads, hitting, numbers, and the return of running back LeGarrette Blount and defensive tackle Dominique Easley. Let's go through the notes:
-Blount looked good and didn't show any signs of being out of shape. It's good to see him out there and hopefully the failed conditioning test turns into nothing at all. Blount is so talented, and people tend to forget that; he ran with great leverage yesterday and has such quick feet for a man his size. We're sticking to our prediction of Blount running for over 1,000 yards.
-Aaron Dobson has been VERY good so far, playing like a guy who knows that he's battling for a roster spot. Dobson has missed the last year-and-a-half due to injuries and his potential return to form could be bad for Patriots opponents. Dobson did have a fumble today that forced the offense to take a lap, but the hit he received from Jamie Collins was no joke; anyone would have fumbled. Dobson made up for his fumble with an excellent catch over Darryl Roberts and a touchdown catch in the corner of the end zone. When Dobson is on, he's fun to watch.
-Speaking of Jamie Collins, he continued to impress yesterday. He had the great play on Dobson that got the offense in trouble. He's all over the field, even being called a "freak" by teammate Rob Gronkowski. Another freak, Dominique Easley, practiced in drills and appears to be good to go, a huge boost to a defensive line that needs his athleticism.
-Rookie safety Jordan Richards has been very good so far, and Saturday was no different. Richards was stuck with the tough responsibility of covering Scott Chandler, a 6'7 tight end. Richards used his smarts and instincts to cover Chandler and made an excellent play on him to break up a pass that is typically completed. Richards is going to force a veteran like Tavon Wilson or Nate Ebner off the roster.
-The best part of camp has been Julian Edelman vs. Malcolm Butler, and both of them seem to be having fun with it. There was some trash talk from Tom Brady as he completed a pass to Edelman, but Butler has been getting the last laugh for three days now. He made strong plays on Brandon Gibson and Brian Tyms; Butler has a strong chance to play the left cornerback spot vacated by Darrelle Revis. All the physical skills are there, so if Butler stays healthy, he could be in line for a breakout season.
-Defensive tackle Antonio Johnson had a strong practice and has been good in camp so far. He is showing that he can provide an interior pass rush, something the Patriots desperately need. He may ne a longshot to make the roster, but if he keeps playing like he has, he'll force the Patriots to hold on to him.
-Linebacker Jonathan Freeny was paired with Jamie Collins in one 11-on-11 drill; there were also three safeties (Ebner, Chung, and McCourty) deployed in this drill, which would make one think that Belichick wants to try "Big Nickel" again. Freeny is a strong special teams player, and if he shows he can be a solid backup linebacker, he has a good chance to make the roster.
-Ryan Wendell and Sebastian Vollmer continue to nurse injuries while rookies Shaq Mason and Tre' Jackson get all the guard reps. Marcus Cannon has been getting the much needed reps at right tackle.
-The play of the day goes to defensive tackle Sealver Siliga, who rocked running back Tyler Gaffney in a full contact drill. The crowd erupted after the hit, and it helped set the tone for a charged up day of practice.
Follow me @chris_simoneau