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Observations From Day 1 of Patriots Minicamp

The Patriots took the field on Monday for the first day of mandatory minicamp. Head coach Jerod Mayo said before practice that the full team was present, though a handful of players either weren’t seen on the field or watched from the sidelines in street clothes.

As New England moves into the final phase of its offseason before an extended break, Mayo described the goal this week as building on what’s been put in place and getting returning players back into the mix.

Several previously absent players, most notably defensive linemen Matthew Judon and Davon Godchaux, attended practice for the first time this offseason. Mayo told reporters that Judon, a full participant throughout the day, and his trademark energy have been in the building at times during the spring. Godchaux, who has no guaranteed money and is in the final year of his deal, was present in his helmet but did not wear a jersey or participate.

Today’s session focused on situational football, including different down and distances, end-of-half situations, and continued work in the Red Zone. Referees were also in attendance for the first time this offseason, with Mayo joking, “I told [the referees], don’t be shy about throwing flags.” This was evident at times throughout the practice, with flags flying when players jumped offsides or moved before the snap.

Here are my top takeaways from today’s practice.

Friendly reminder: all observations should be taken with a grain of salt, as this stage in the offseason is more about growth than results.

Absent/Did Not Participate

  • WR Kendrick Bourne
  • LB Sione Takitaki
  • LB Jahlani Tavai
  • ED Joshua Uche
  • IOL Jake Andrews
  • LG Cole Strange

Limited

  • WR Javon Baker
  • DB Marcellas Dial
  • CB Kaleb Ford-Dement
  • RB Terrell Jennings

Drake Maye Shines in Continued QB2 Reps

Drake Maye continued repping behind veteran Jacoby Brissett in today’s practice, a trend reporters saw for the first time last week. Unlike that session, where his inexperience was evident at times, Maye put together the best performance he’s had in an open practice.

The rookie’s aggression, decisiveness, and ball placement consistently stood out, with his one incompletion during early team drills coming on a dropped pass. He delivered three impressive throws into tight coverage, including a jump ball in the low Red Zone to La’Michael Pettway, a crossing route to Pettway above his defender, and an anticipatory dime to Jaheim Bell in the back of the end zone on another low Red Zone rep. When his downfield options weren’t available, the rookie didn’t hesitate to find his outlet receivers.

Maye’s mobility and arm flexibility were also evident, particularly during a one-minute drill where he stepped into space and delivered a side-arm throw on the run to Ja’Lynn Polk in the flat. Jabrill Peppers seemed impressed with the throw as he emulated it from the sideline.

Brissett wasn’t to be forgotten, as he remained extremely consistent in keeping the offense on schedule. His best throw came during low Red Zone, hitting DeMario Douglas in the back of the end zone between two defenders. Douglas was fired up after the play, letting out a roar and spiking the football.

Things went off the rails a bit for the offense during end-of-half work, which all four quarterbacks got a crack at. Brissett set up a field goal during a drive with one minute remaining, but the group was shut out on its other attempts. The lowlight came on a would-be pick-six from Zappe during his first two-minute rep, which Kyle Dugger may have baited him into.

Overall, the biggest takeaway from the group was that Maye seems to be making consistent progress and is pulling ahead of Zappe. Brissett told reporters, “You’re seeing his progression come alive,” noting the rookie’s mental and physical strides. It’s too early to declare whether Maye should be New England’s starter come September. But if he continues making such impressive strides, the team could have a very real quarterback competition on its hands.

Patriots Searching for “Best Five” Offensive Line Combo

Though the Patriots seemed to draft Caedan Wallace as their left tackle of the future, he may not be locked into that one spot. Before practice, Mayo was asked about the rookie repping extensively at right tackle during last week’s open OTAs.

“On the offensive line, versatility is key. Like, if you play guard, we hope you can play center. If you play right tackle, hopefully you can play left tackle. We’re still just trying to build that depth, whatever the combination is.”

Legendary line coach Dante Scarnecchia was known for getting his best five players on the field. Mayo seems to follow a similar philosophy, telling reporters, “The best players will play. That’s how I think about it. It’s all competition, and we’re going to try to put the best five out there.”

The offense’s top offensive line group remained largely the same, with Chukwuma Okorafor and Mike Onwenu serving as bookends. But the second group featured a new combination, with Onwenu at right guard and Wallace at right tackle.

This could have more to do with the unit’s depth at guard than anything. With Cole Strange sidelined, career backup Nick Leverett has been the primary guard opposite Sidy Sow. If the Patriots believe Okorafor can hold down the blindside and believe Wallace is a more ideal starter than Leverett, having the former Nittany Lion and Onwenu stick to their natural positions would make sense.

This experiment still appears to be in its infancy, so there shouldn’t be any sweeping assumptions made just yet. But while fans are clamoring for Wallace to learn left tackle as soon as possible, it could be better for the line as a whole if New England holds off on the switch to maximize talent and continuity.

Rhamondre Stevenson “Pretty Close” to Extension

After today’s practice, Rhamondre Stevenson told reporters he feels he’s getting “pretty close” to an extension with the Patriots. I predicted Stevenson would be a priority candidate for a new deal shortly after Barmore’s extension, and the move would make a lot of sense.

Since becoming a full-time starter in 2022, Stevenson has been the Patriots’ top, and sometimes only, offensive weapon, serving as a reliable runner, receiver, and pass blocker. He ranks top-10 among backs with at least 100 carries in yards after contact per rush (3.4, 8th) and rate of yards after contact (74.6%, 10th). He also ranks sixth at the position in receptions and 8th in receiving yards after contact.

Mayo praised Stevenson when asked about the back’s contract situation, saying “I think he’s one of the better backs in the league, it’s no doubt about it. I think over the last few years, it’s been kind of tough on him, as far as getting started. So, I’m excited to see what he does this season. And look, he’s earned everything that he gets. He is our starting running back, and hopefully, we do get something done.”

Stevenson has also worked to improve each offseason. After his rookie season, he focused on conditioning to handle a larger workload. This summer, Stevenson looks noticeably thinner, which he attributes to cutting fat and adding muscle while maintaining the same weight.

The Patriots rewarded their key veterans with sizeable paydays throughout this offseason. Though the value of running backs has diminished in the eyes of some, there are few Patriots players more deserving of a new deal than Stevenson. And in an offense that’s expected to put a heavy emphasis on the run game, locking him up for the foreseeable future seems like good business.

Leftovers

  • Ja’Lynn Polk had some impressive grabs today, including a pair of touchdowns in Red Zone work with one coming against Christian Gonzalez
  • Tyquan Thornton made a couple of grabs for scores in the low Red Zone, but dropped the first pass of team drills after sitting between zone defenders and had a miscommunication with Brissett in the back of the end zone
  • Isaiah Bolden looks like the Patriots’ primary slot cornerback, but Mayo said that situation is due to a lack of depth at slot corner (Jonathan and Marcus Jones haven’t played much, if any defense), and he sees Bolden as more of a perimeter corner
  • Cornerbacks Alex Austin and Marco Wilson rotated at right cornerback throughout practice, though Austin appeared to get the majority of reps
  • Safety Jaylinn Hawkins, who has primarily been a special teamer throughout his career, has spent a lot of time at free safety in groupings with Kyle Dugger and Jabrill Peppers
  • Offensive lineman Michael Jordan was kicked out of practice after getting into it with defensive lineman Trysten Hill
  • Chad Ryland went 2/4 on field goals towards the end of practice, while Joey Slye hit all four of his attempts
  • When asked about potentially using non-kickers on kickoffs, Mayo said the team hasn’t really experimented with it but joked that Jahlani Tavai is “knocking on my door every day. ‘I can do it, coach. I can do it.’ It’s like, just get healthy.”
  • David Andrews was asked about the importance of Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month after today’s practice and had this to say:

Taylor Kyles

Taylor Kyles is the lead NFL Analyst for CLNS Media covering players, schemes, and tendencies through a New England Patriots-centric lens.

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