NFL

Observations From Day 2 of Patriots Open OTAs

The Patriots took the field on Wednesday for their fifth OTA session and the second open to reporters. The pace of practice remained relatively light with players in shorts and t-shirts, but head coach Jerod Mayo said the team is “getting into real football now,” with 3rd downs being one area of focus. The special teams unit also worked on kickoffs, which will be a big area of emphasis following offseason rule changes.

Like the last session open to media, veterans took the lead in drills for most practice.

Over two dozen players were absent, with Christian Barmore, Jonathan Jones, Sione Takitaki, Joe Milton, and Jake Andrews being notable new additions to that group. Andrews, Jahlani Tavai, and Cole Strange were on the field in street clothes. Sidy Sow was present but did not appear to participate.

Here are my top takeaways from the rest of today’s practice.

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

Absences

  • ED Matthew Judon
  • IDL Christian Barmore
  • CB Jonathan Jones
  • NT Davon Godchaux
  • WR Kendrick Bourne
  • LG Cole Strange
  • LB Sione Takitaki
  • QB Joe Milton III
  • LB Jahlani Tavai
  • ED Joshua Uche
  • OT Zuri Henry
  • IOL Jake Andrews
  • DL Sam Roberts

Impressive Day for Jacoby Brissett and Drake Maye

Jacoby Brissett continues to be the most consistent quarterback on the roster. Bailey Zappe and Drake Maye were inconsistent during position drills and when throwing on air, but Brissett rarely missed his target.

During team drills, the career journeyman had several impressive downfield connections, including hookups with DeMario Douglas, LaMichael Pettway, and Javon Baker. Brissett also threaded the needle between a pair of zone defenders to hit Tyquan Thornton on a bootleg. His ability to keep the offense will be invaluable in year one of New England’s rebuild.

It would take an outstanding summer for Maye to leapfrog Brissett, but the rookie had several impressive flashes during 7-on-7 work. Two main criticisms of Maye’s game are short accuracy and decision-making, but he shined in both areas. He got the ball out on time and consistently put tight-window throws out of defenders’ reach. There were also high-level flashes like pump-faking to create a passing window, throwing a short no-look pass to Jaheim Bell on a bootleg, and throwing into a blitz to beat smothering coverage, which drew a dap from Brissett. Maye did seem to overthrow JuJu Smith-Schuster on a deep shot but completed another to Thornton, continuing to show off his exceptional arm talent.

Like all of the Patriots’ quarterbacks, Maye still has a long way to go. But as Brissett pointed out while speaking to the media, he’s putting in the work, and fans should be excited about the first-year’s continued development.

Two Promising Receivers Make Big Plays

Tyquan Thornton has been an offensive fixture in OTAs, indicating New England may be priming the third-year receiver to seize a prominent role. Thornton took advantage of those opportunities in today’s session, showing off crisp routes and strong hands throughout. His day was highlighted by a deep connection from Maye, and he showed good concentration on a crossing route where two defenders were in the area.  Thornton must prove he can be that reliable day in and day out, but today was a positive sign.

Thornton may have been the most consistent Patriots receiver today, but Javon Baker put himself at the top of the highlight reel with two incredible grabs. The UCF product, known for his downfield prowess, made a pair of contested catches that drew an audible response from reporters. On the first, he Moss’d a defender on a dominant effort in traffic. On the other, he managed to get both feet in bounds along the boundary with a corner all over him. After practice, Brissett, who threw both passes, said Baker has improved every day.

Thornton and Baker bring a vertical element to New England’s offense that has been severely lacking in recent seasons. If they can carve out significant roles, this receiving corps has a chance to exceed expectations.

Keion White Assuming Larger Role in Year Two

When Mayo was asked if any players have surprised him thus far in training camp, he singled out Keion White, saying the second-year defensive lineman is taking on more of a leadership role and growing as a player.

“[Keion’s] versatility — he’s always been a strong guy, but I would say he’s even stronger now,” Mayo said. “He’s doing a good job and he’s here each and every day. And in the meeting rooms he’s actually kinda talking and leading those conversations, which I think is important. We always talk about that year two jump — that’s the biggest jump you can have.”

Deatrich Wise added to the praise, saying White is taking on more responsibility on and off the field.

With Matthew Judon being absent in OTAs, White has consistently been one of the top edge defenders for New England’s defense. The Georgia Tech alum is also one of the team’s few defensive linemen with every-down ability, so a significant year-two jump would be a big boost for an already solid group.

Leftovers

  • Chad Ryland went 4-5 on field goals to end practice
  • Alex Austin broke up a pass against Javon Baker that was then intercepted by Jaylinn Hawkins
  • Rookie corner Marcellas Dial recorded a pass breakup against JuJu Smith-Schuster
  • Safety Marte Mapu broke up a Drake Maye pass intended for Jaheim Bell
  • Javon Baker and Tyquan Thornton participated in gunner drills
  • Patrick Chung, Steve Belichick, and Ivan Fears were special guests during today’s practice, with team owner Robert Kraft also making a brief appearance
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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