FOXBORO -- From a "first fully padded practice of the year" standpoint, Monday's training camp session behind Gillette Stadium on Monday was not the most eventful couple of hours of the year. The major highlight was probably the work of rookie punter Bryce Baringer -- no joke.
But in terms of standing out, rookie receiver Demario "Pop" Douglas was once again impossible to miss.
It wasn't so much that Douglas was making a ton of big plays -- though he was featured in some quick passing plays that allowed him to get the ball in space and utilize his speed. It was more that Douglas has clearly impressed almost all of his teammates already, to the point where they were hooting and hollering when he threw his body and laid a block on a wide receiver screen.
After shouting "Pop!" from the backfield, teammates were eager to high-five him, having witnessed yet another impressive feat from the 5-foot-8 rookie out of Liberty.
It's not just the offensive guys, either. Veteran safety Jabrill Peppers has certainly noticed the way that Douglas has made himself stand out thus far through the spring and summer.
"Oh yeah, we notice him," Peppers said of Douglas. "He's out there making plays. We saw it early on in OTAs. What surprises me most is his physicality. He's a smaller guy but he's tough as nails. I think that'll bode well for him."
Peppers, who's played quite a bit of NFL football, has also been impressed by Douglas' ability to pick up the Patriots' offensive concepts and play multiple roles.
"First year in the system, they're moving him inside, outside, doing a lot of things. But I mean, he's handling it pretty well," Peppers said.
Peppers even gave the rookie praise for making the defense sharper.
"He's gonna make our guys better, and we're gonna make him better," he said.
For his part, Douglas sounds like a rookie, stating he's looking to do whatever the coaches ask of him while trying to absorb as much information as he can each time he steps on the practice field.
"I ain't gonna lie -- everything," Douglas said Sunday when asked what he's enjoyed most about his first training camp. "Everything, just because I'm learning. I'm learning, I'm coming from college, so coming from college to the NFL, it's a difference. But it's like, every day I learn something new. Every day. So it's definitely a blessing to be here."
It's clear that Douglas has impressed the coaching staff off the field since getting drafted in the sixth round back in April, and that's what earned him some playing time with the first-team offense right off the bat in training camp. Thus far, he's capitalized on that opportunity, looking capable of fitting in right off the bat.
Of course, it's early, and Bill Belichick reminded everybody Sunday that training camp is a marathon, not a sprint. Still, in a best-case scenario, Douglas could fill the role on offense that Marcus Jones dabbled in a year ago, but likely with more play calls and variables that will make him even tougher for defenses to match. As the saying goes, you can't teach speed, and Douglas has a plentiful amount. (If Douglas can fill that role, it will also have the added benefit of not forcing Jones to play on both sides of the ball.)
The biggest question about the rookie had to do with his size. But he's put on muscle since last season at Liberty, and he's listed at 192 pounds on the Patriots' roster. Monday gave him his first chance to prove that he can match the physicality of NFL defenders, and he passed that test with flying colors.
The fans and media members who have been at training camp have seen this emergence from day one, and everyone else will be able to get their first glance at him next Thursday night in the preseason opener against Houston. That could be the next big step in a momentous summer for the 22-year-old. For now, the hype train continues to pick up steam.
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