FOXBORO, Mass. — The hype surrounding D.J. Foster was a little out of control last offseason after he signed with the New England Patriots as an undrafted free agent out of Arizona State.
The running back suffered a hamstring injury last spring, and it continued to limit him during training camp and preseason, so he never quite caught up. The Patriots still thought highly enough of Foster to keep him on the active roster for most of the season.
Foster became a forgotten man this winter when the Patriots added Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead to their running back stable, which already featured James White, Dion Lewis and Brandon Bolden. But Foster reignited the hype Thursday in the Patriots’ first organized team activities session open to the media, as he made three highlight catches during team drills in the cold, misty practice behind Gillette Stadium.
Foster played running back and wide receiver during his college career, and he flashed those receiving skills Thursday in the non-padded practice.
Here are some other observations from practice:
— Quarterback Tom Brady went 9 of 14 in team drills, Jimmy Garoppolo went 7 of 13 and Jacoby Brissett went 3 of 6. Safety Nate Ebner dropped an interception from Garoppolo.
— Patriots pass-catchers were plagued by drops in the wet conditions. Fullback James Develin, running back Brandon Bolden and wide receivers Devin Lucien, Chris Hogan and Austin Carr all dropped passes.
— Burkhead, Lewis, tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver Brandin Cooks made highlight grabs. Cooks already looks very good.
— This isn’t exactly a revelation, but after watching Patrick Chung and Jordan Richards cover Gronkowski, we still can safely say Chung is the better safety. Richards was beat soundly by Gronkowski twice. Chung was in coverage on the only incompletion thrown to Gronkowski all day.
— Cornerback Cyrus Jones continued his rookie struggles. He had issues fielding punts and was beat deep by receiver Danny Amendola.
— Undrafted rookies Kenny Moore and Dwayne Thomas are playing cornerback, not safety.
— Safety Duron Harmon was present but didn’t participate with his teammates in practice. He reportedly underwent a minor surgery over the offseason.
— Undrafted rookie offensive lineman Andrew Jelks was on the field but didn’t participate and wasn’t wearing a helmet.
— Linebacker Jonthan Freeny, who was on injured reserve last season, wore a red non-contact jersey, but he participated.
— Linebacker Dont’a Hightower and wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell were among those absent from practice.
— New wide receiver Andrew Hawkins wore No. 16. Fellow wideout DeAndrew White switched from No. 16 to No. 17.
Thumbnail photo via Scott R. Galvin/USA TODAY Sports Images