FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Have to admit, Dominique Easley’s stint on the physically unable to perform list prior to the start of Patriots training camp didn’t do much to validate all the predictions of him emerging as a major player on the defense this season.

After all, the whole notion of Easley breaking out is predicated on his health, but more specifically, his reconstructed knees being in good shape. The early visit to the PUP list seemed to threaten that scenario, but given he only missed the first two days of training camp, hope is not lost.

The Patriots’ 2014 first-round pick in the NFL draft was a full participant during the padded weekend practices. There was hitting and one-on-one battles in the trenches for Easley to attack.

So that allowed us to spy for some clues with respect to his progress. How did he look? Were there any signs of the player everyone raved about in college? Had the defensive lineman regained the kind of explosion that allows him to win battles off the snap and be a major disruptor?

Not surprisingly, Easley started slow, but by the midpoint of Sunday’s practice started to make his presence felt.

Two plays in particular stood out during 11-on-11 drills. First, Easley broke through the line in a run drill to stop Travaris Cadet. Easley showed the quick burst there, dropping Cadet for a loss. Later, he penetrated again to stuff Dion Lewis.

He didn’t have any decisive wins in one-on-one battles with offensive linemen, where you’d point to a quick first step. Bryan Stork, Tre Jackson and David Andrews handled him without too much trouble during three separate duels we watched. Although on Saturday, he undressed Marcus Cannon during the same drills.

So it’s been a bit of a mixed bag thus far, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. Easley, who wore a brace on his left knee, is just getting back in the swing of things at this stage. He’s trying to make up for lost time.

“It’s real good getting back out there,” Easley said following Sunday’s workout. “I’m just trying to get back into the routine.”

While his highlights came in stuffing a pair of runs, Easley’s real importance lies in his ability to disrupt the pocket and get to the quarterback, as a lack of interior pass rush has been a consistent problem for the Patriots.

If he can recapture his ability to beat linemen off the snap, regain that pop and explosiveness and be the type of disruptive interior rusher many projected, that will go a long way toward helping out a weakened secondary.

That’s why it’s important to monitor Easley and see what he looks like day to day in camp, as well as the joint practices against the Saints a bit down the road where the competition becomes more intense. The key will be in how he progresses, or rather, if he progresses.

One of the reasons for shutting him down near the end of the 2014 season was getting him fully healthy for the 2015 season. Easley didn’t have his trademark jump thanks in part to recurring right knee soreness from his most recent ACL repair, along with several other injuries he was nursing.

During the early camps, Easley spoke of how much better he felt after taking the time to work on his knees, and how he thought it would make a difference this time around. But then he showed up on the PUP list prior to training camp.

While he said he was “somewhat” surprised to be sitting at the start of camp, Easley wasn’t going to question the move.

“Whatever’s in their best interests,” he said of the Patriots.

What the Pats would love is a disruptive force in the interior of their defensive line. That’s what would be best for them. That’s what they’re interested in.

Easley can be that guy. It’s just too soon to tell if he’s completely turned the corner.