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Observations From Patriots Rookie Minicamp

The Patriots’ draftees, undrafted free agents, and tryout players took the field for their second day of rookie minicamp and first day in front of reporters. It was a low-intensity practice with players in shorts and t-shirts, mostly involving warm-ups, individual drills, and a brief 7-on-7 period.

With minicamps being more about gauging players’ ability to retain information than judging their execution, all observations should be taken with a grain of salt. Additionally, each rookie naturally has areas for improvement, and they’re working with players with whom they have no chemistry.

With that said, here are my top takeaways from today’s practice.

Quarterbacks Adjusting to New Offense

Drake Maye and Joe Milton spent much of today’s session in unfamiliar territory. Offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt’s system emphasizes under center formations and starting with the left foot up when in the shotgun.

While Milton was more consistent throwing into a net from different alignments in warm-ups, both struggled with ball placement when throwing routes on air and during 7-on-7s.

I wouldn’t look too much into this, as adjusting to a new style of footwork can be tricky for any quarterback. Today’s script, which focused heavily on the quick game, didn’t align with either player’s current strengths.

Maye touched on the adjustment period while speaking to reporters after practice.

“I think kind of the first day, just feeling it out and just getting more and more reps. That’s all something new takes. Just getting more reps at it,” Maye explained. “I think it’s – you know, it’s a perk to it. Quick game’s a lot quicker. … And I think under center stance, there’s a lot I’m trying out new – you know, two new stances that I’m getting used to. So, just working on it, repping it. And I’m starting – I felt pretty good out there today. So, just got to keep working.”

On a more positive note, both quarterbacks’ arm strength and velocity stood out. Milton still needs to learn when to unleash his fastball and when to throw with touch, but the difference between New England’s young passers and recent Patriots signal-callers was staggering.

Rookie Weapons Stand Out

Pass-catchers are usually the top beneficiaries during non-padded practices. However, the fluidity, hands, and mentality displayed by Ja’Lynn Polk and Javon Baker caught my attention.

Both players were smooth and deliberate in their routes, and they consistently attacked passes in the air. Polk primarily lined up at Z beside the tight end, while Baker was the main X receiver.

The way Polk carries himself reminds me a lot of Kendrick Bourne. The former Husky is infectiously energetic and vocal, and he could be seen dancing throughout practice. Polk led drills throughout the session, with Baker typically right behind him.

Baker, who struggled with drops at UCF, did let a couple of passes hit the turf, but he showed his competitiveness by getting back in line for another rep.

Maye praised both receivers when asked about his first impression of them after practice.

“Yeah, man, they look good,” Maye said. “I know you all are just watching. They look good. They made some plays in 7-on-7. I threw a couple behind them, but they still made the catches. So, I don’t know if we have one on the ground yet and, you know, knock on wood. So, that’s the goal out here, come out here and [run] routes on air and be 100%. But those guys, they’re really special players.”

Tight end Jaheim Bell was involved in one of the most impressive reps of the day, effortlessly tracking a pass from Maye over his shoulder for one of the day’s few downfield completions.

Bell was consistently on the field with the top offense and projects to be a versatile weapon for New England’s offense. When asked how much he’s putting on his plate early on, Bell expressed confidence in playing multiple positions.

“It’s not difficult for me to learn a lot of different positions. I’ve been doing it since I was in high school. So just being able to pick up on things – I pick up on things very quickly, so whatever I’m asked to do, whether it’s playing the tight end position, the fullback position, slot, whatever, I feel I can learn it. I’ve been doing it for a while now.”

Offensive Line Roles Taking Shape

Today’s session provided some insight into where certain young offensive linemen could be deployed.

Third-rounder Caedan Wallace predictably spent today’s session at left tackle with the top unit, but fourth-rounder guard Layden Robinson was typically next to him on the left side. Undrafted free agent Charles Turner, who was projected as a center-only player during the draft process, manned the opposite guard spot.

Robinson told reporters that offensive line coach Scott Peters is training each lineman to play multiple positions, a staple of both the Browns and Packers’ schemes.

When Wallace was asked about his switch to the blindside, a hot topic since he was drafted, the former Nittany Lion revealed he isn’t completely new to the spot.

“I don’t find it all too hard to switch over, so just, I guess, flipping things in my mind, hand placement, certain kicks, angles, things like that,” Wallace explained. “I played a lot of left in college practices, but I pretty much played all left in high school, and so, like I said, being able to work that throughout the years and then come out here, it’s been sort of an easier transition. Not completely easy, but it’s been a little easier for me.”

In college, Wallace typically threw a two-hand punch, which will be riskier against NFL defenders who can use the tactic to knock him off balance. When asked about using his hands more independently, Wallace said it’s been on his radar for some time and praised Peters for his guidance.

“I’ve been working it for a while now,” Wallace said. “Coach Peters is getting me right with independent hands, and so I’m enjoying it. I’m learning a lot from him. Hand placement is something that I’ve really been wanting to work on for a while now, and so I worked on it throughout the draft prep process, and now I’m getting here and I’m really [spearheading] it. So, it’s been good.”

Leftovers

  • Eliot Wolf, who was officially named the Patriots’ Vice President of Player Personnel, was in attendance today
  • Polk, Wallace, and Robinson all praised Maye’s leadership while speaking to reporters, noting his communication and confidence
  • Head coach Jerod Mayo said before practice that Maye will primarily hear from Van Pelt to avoid having too many people in his ear, but senior offensive assistant Ben McAdoo and quarterbacks coach T.C. McCartney could also be seen speaking to and working with the rookie quarterback
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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