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What makes Saturday such a big practice for Patriots

Ryan Hannable
July 27, 2018 - 9:12 pm

Saturday is a big day for the Patriots.

It's not just the third training camp practice of the summer, it's the first session held in pads. The first two days have essentially been an extension of the spring work with not much action taking place. That will change Saturday morning when there will be plenty of action, including hitting.

"It’s always good to get going, good to get out on the field," Bill Belichick said Thursday. "We’re in a process here where we go from non-padded to padded and so forth. But, we’ve laid out a schedule to do things the way that we feel like is most productive for us to do them and just take it day-by-day. [We have] a long way to go, one step at a time, a lot of work to do, but always good to get underway and get started. So, we’ll just take it one day at a time."

It's hard to judge a number of positions without pads, so that will be the biggest thing that changes. After watching numerous spring sessions and the past two days, there are a number of players who we're looking forward to watching Saturday and beyond.

Here's who we'll be watching.

-- Big tackle Trent Brown is getting the first crack at replacing Nate Solder at left tackle so it will be interesting to see how he fares once the pads come on and he's forced to block defensive ends. He's been known to be inconsistent over the course of his career, but when he's on his game, he's been called one of the best pass blockers in the entire league. Another player on the offensive line who will get a lot of eyes is rookie Isaiah Wynn. He was the Patriots' first selection in the draft and has some questions about if he can play tackle because of his lack of size. It will be interesting to see how he looks going up against some of the defensive linemen and pass rushers.

-- On the other side of the ball, defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Derek Rivers will get a lot of attention. Clayborn was arguably the Patriots' biggest offseason acquisition while Rivers was the top draft pick last year, but he tore his ACL in the preseason. Many feel these two will be a big upgrade for the pass rush, but we haven't been able to get any hints without pads.

-- Rob Gronkowski will be worth watching as well. Last year he was knocked around pretty good, even to the ground at some points, and then later in the year we learned he was contemplating stepping away from the game at some point during training camp. Gronkowski's intensity level in blocking drills could say a lot when it comes to his mindset for the 2018 season.

-- Running back is also a position that's different with pads on. Sony Michel clearly has the skills to be the best back in the Patriots backfield, but it will be worth seeing how he looks in full pads, especially when it comes to his speed and how he acts with the ball in his hands. Goal-line situations will be worth watching and seeing who gets the majority of the snaps. This will likely be between Rex Burkhead, Mike Gillislee and Jeremy Hill. Gillislee and Hill could be battling for a roster spot.

So, while it's been hard to focus on the non-skill positions thus far, it will be a completely different story come Saturday.

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