FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- If there was one takeaway from the first practice of Patriots training camp from this viewpoint, it was the importance of rookie receivers Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce being on the field and participating in full.
This was the first thing I was looking for at practice because of the feeling that it was critical for them to generate some form of early momentum. Things move fast in training camp and missed time early can set a rookie back, especially a receiver attempting to develop a rapport with quarterback Tom Brady.
The availability of Dobson and Boyce traces back to the spring.
After participating in rookie minicamp and organized team activities in May and June, Dobson had been held out of spring's full-team mandatory minicamp (believed to be because of a muscle tweak).
Overall, the feeling from here was that he had a little bit of a rocky entry into the team's program, which opened the door, in part, for rookie free agent Kenbrell Thompkins to be taking first-unit reps by the end of spring. It's hard to imagine that's the way the coaches had envisioned things unfolding after Dobson was selected in the second round (59th overall).
Meanwhile, Boyce, the high fourth-round pick from Texas Christian, had been held out of all spring practices as he recovered from a toe injury sustained in the pre-draft process.
So Friday marked a checkpoint to see if Dobson could hit the refresh button and attempt to seize a golden opportunity ahead for him. His presence on the field, in which he split some first-unit reps with veteran Michael Jenkins on the outside, seems to have him moving in a more positive direction than he was in the spring.
And with Boyce (5-11, 205) fully cleared, it was our first look at him and Dobson (6-3, 200) on the field at the same time.
There is a long way to go, and it's foolish to judge players after one practice, or by one drop or one nice catch.
But after the spring, which raised some questions as to how much Dobson and Boyce might contribute, their presence on the field Friday was most notable to me.