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NFL Notes: Maye's day yet to come

Despite his lofty draft status, Drake Maye’s first few practices didn’t include as many reps as most have hoped for.

Patriots quarterback Drake Maye (10).
Patriots quarterback Drake Maye (10).

The media will get its third look at the 2024 Patriots Tuesday afternoon, and when it comes to the quarterbacks it will be interesting to see if the plan for practice will remain unchanged. During our first two glimpses, veteran Jacoby Brissett took the lead reps while Bailey Zappe and rookie third overall pick Drake Maye followed.

There was a slight alteration to the routine last week from our first look as Maye took full reps with a group of young players on a separate field during 7-on-7 work while Brissett and Zappe split time on the other side. Those plays were run after the full-team 11-on-11 reps that saw Maye limited to the final handful of snaps.

On one hand it's perfectly understandable that Maye is being integrated slowly. As a 21-year-old rookie (he doesn't turn 22 until August 30) he has a lot to learn, and Jerod Mayo and the coaching staff are likely trying to avoid overloading him with too much information to start. Brissett was brought in to be the veteran starter and mentor, so the fact that Maye is being integrated slowly makes sense.

However, there's a difference between being content to work Maye in gradually and not providing him with enough reps to learn. A couple of spring OTAs ultimately won't be the difference between success or failure for Maye – or any other NFL player for that matter – as he begins his pro career. And not rushing him into the starting lineup is also an acceptable course of action.

But limiting his practice reps seems counter-intuitive on the surface. Mayo spoke about a competition at quarterback shortly after Maye was selected, only now it's more about earning opportunities to practice let alone play.

"He is taking advantage of the opportunities that he gets. My message is, it's not how many opportunities, it's what you do with the opportunities that you get," Mayo said when asked if he was concerned that Maye wasn't getting enough reps.

"Look, going back to the competition part of it, the better you do on a day-after-day basis, not just on the field but also in the classroom, the more reps you'll get going forward."

Again, a couple of extra looks against one particular coverage likely isn't going to determine how Maye's career will develop. It just seems to make more sense to allow an inexperienced quarterback more chances to see the various looks and learn what he can and can't do in order to combat them.

Peyton Manning recently spoke about his experience as a rookie when he threw 28 interceptions (still a rookie record) and suffered through a miserable 3-13 season but found the experience was instrumental in his development.

"I think experience is still your best teacher," Manning said at an awards ceremony last month. "I think any quarterback would tell you, you just learn more things than you do sitting on the sideline. Any quarterback will tell you that. I went 3-13 my rookie year and didn't play very well. We went 13-3 the next year. There's no way that would have happened had I not played and kind of gone through those struggles and thrown those interceptions and figured out 'Hey, OK, I can't do that anymore. Hey, these guys are faster.' You just sort of file it all away. Eli [Manning] played, I think, six games his rookie year, and he said what he learned in the six that he played was night and day to the 10 that he sat."

While Manning was talking specifically about playing in actual games, the same would hold true for a practice setting. Mayo talked about earning additional reps but there would seem to be more value in learning from mistakes as well.

It would be more than reasonable to expect those reps to spike as the offseason progresses, culminating with next week's minicamp. One reason for that, other than the importance of preparing Maye, is the presence of Zappe. It was hard listening to the third-year quarterback following last week's practice, as he sounded very much like a player who understood his future likely doesn't include Foxborough.

When asked if he expected to be in the competition to become the starter, Zappe's responses included phrases like "that's what I've been told," which came across in a manner in which he didn't seem to fully believe. Mayo spoke earlier in the spring about not keeping all four quarterbacks (rookie Joe Milton was not dressed for last week's practice) into training camp and it's certainly plausible that Zappe feels he's the most likely candidate to be let go.

It's also possible that Mayo and Eliot Wolf view Zappe as an insurance policy against being forced to play Maye. If the idea is for Maye to sit at least to start the year, and something were to happen to Brissett early on, Zappe would theoretically be able to step in. If Zappe goes, he would take with him any lingering protection against playing Maye.

That shouldn't be enough of a reason to continue giving Zappe valuable practice reps that should be going to Maye, however. We'll see if anything changes in that regard in the coming days.

Patriots defensive end Keion White (99).
Patriots defensive end Keion White (99).

Second-year jump

One player who generated some discussion among coaches ahead of last week's OTA practice was Keion White. The 2023 second-round pick has been used both as a down defensive lineman and as a stand-up outside linebacker. At 6-5, 285 pounds, White may be caught in between what would be an ideal fit at either spot, but for now he's been standing out.

Mayo was asked if he'd been pleasantly surprised by anyone thus far and White's name came up.

"I mean, that's hard to say. I think the guys, no matter what group we're talking about there are no starters," Mayo said. "Just being able to mix and match different groups, that's a hard one. Look, Keion is doing a good job for us and I'd say also, Keion has kind of taken that step forward as far as being a leader. Not as much vocally, but you see him actually leading the groups and working well, so if you need a name, that is a good one.

"He's always been a strong guy but I would say he is even stronger now and he is doing a good job. He is here each and every day, and in the meeting rooms, he is actually kind of talking and leading those conversations, which I think is important. And we always talk about that Year 2 jump, that's the biggest jump you're going to have."

Defensive coordinator DeMarcus Covington said White has been able to deliver on three key items: showing up, being present and staying consistent and has worked hard through the spring. Defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery also offered some praise for White.

"There's a reason why he was drafted where he was," Montgomery said. "He works with me and [outside linebackers coach] Drew [Wilkins]. He's a guy who wears a lot of hats."

OTA tidbits

Patrick Chung and Steve Belichick were on hand for the practice last week. Belichick spent some time joking around with his former co-workers, including some time early on with Mayo. … Rookie Javon Baker's explosiveness stood out during the workout. He was not considered one of the fastest wide receivers in the draft but his movement was fluid and effortless, allowing him to glide into open areas with ease. He also came up with a couple of impressive catches while easily high-pointing some balls downfield. … Michael Jordan, a fifth-year veteran out of Ohio State who spent time with Cincinnati, Carolina and Green Bay, took some reps at left guard. Second-year man Atonio Mafi also saw time at left guard. … Chad Ryland wrapped up practice with some field goals and hit 4 of 5, hooking a 43-yarder wide to the right on his last attempt. … There was some talk league-wide about the possibility of doing away with spring work in the future and instead moving the start of training camp up to late June as a ramp-up to actual camp. Most players asked about it were unwilling to offer their opinion, but Mayo did address the topic. "It's just a proposal and this is exactly what they want to happen, us having this conversation right here," he said. "One thing I will say though, and I truly believe it, the athletes, no matter what sport they are talking about, they have to take accountability for their career. And anytime you push that back like that, you're going to start to lose some of those guys that don't have the discipline early on in their careers to really stay in shape. So, if you think you're going to come there later and everyone is going to be in shape, I just don't foresee that."

DISCLAIMER: The views and thoughts expressed in this article are those of the writer and don't necessarily reflect those of the organization. Read Full Disclaimer

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