Tom E. Curran

Patriots practicing what they preach with Drake Maye's development

The Patriots are in no rush to put their top rookie in high-leverage situations.

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FOXBORO – The Patriots really haven’t breathed a syllable about Drake Maye being fast-tracked onto the field in 2024.

If anything, they’ve labored to tamp down that expectation. Ask about Maye, and eventually the answer will morph into something about Jacoby Brissett.

Their intention – their default setting – is to let Maye marinate until he’s seasoned to take the field with the faith of everyone he will do the right thing most of the time.

Look at what Mayo said about Maye a month before they drafted him.

“The exciting part about a guy like Drake Maye, there is really no ceiling with a guy like that,” Mayo said at the NFL owners meetings in March. “I know a lot of people look at the ceiling. But you also have to look at how low is the floor.

"I would say a guy like Drake Maye –he has a lot of room to grow. He's a young guy. Honestly, he hasn't played football nearly as much as these other guys. So that's definitely something we've looked at, but he's definitely going to develop.”

In other words, he’s way closer to his floor than his ceiling.

How quickly does he climb the ladder? Up to him. But for the time being, he’s looking up at Bailey Zappe on the depth chart. Which we saw Monday during the team’s first OTA. Brissett. Zappe. Maye. Joe Milton. That’s how it went in the drills. That’s how it went during 7-on-7s and 11-on-11s.

“So wait … the Patriots used the third pick in the draft on a guy they don’t think is better than Bailey Zappe?”

🔊 Patriots Talk: Drake Maye taking third team reps at OTAs… big deal or no? | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

No, you bad-faith-arguing dolt. By the end of the book, Maye is the starting quarterback for the Patriots. But on May 20, 2024, Zappe’s taking snaps ahead of him, because no matter how inevitable the outcome is, you still go through the process. Especially when you’ve all but announced Maye is semi-redshirting.

So the guy with more NFL experience goes ahead of the rookies. And if you're being realistic, you probably get better team reps since Zappe knows the reads to make and where the ball should go. The other 21 players on the field in an 11-on-11 rep need work too.

Will Maye still be marooned behind Zappe at minicamp in a few weeks? Maybe. After a week of training camp? God, I hope not. You have to give up the ghost eventually because the 1A priority in 2024 (as everyone understands) is developing the quarterback of the future. The No. 1 priority is getting the coaching staff and players as a whole ready for the season, which starts in 110 days.

It’s something the rest of the team may watch out of the corner of their eye, but it’s not for them to become fixated on.

“We draft a quarterback and it all falls on Drake and how he takes it,” said wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. “If he can get up and play a part, then for sure, that’s what he’s gonna do. If it’s development, then it’s development.

"At the end of the day, he’s gonna do his part. You’re gonna see him progress over a period of time from OTAs, in training camp. You never know. It’s too early to speak on that but I think that everyone’s here together early so we’ll see how that comes.”

The region may experience a little quarterback envy. It may look at Caleb Williams in Chicago or Jayden Daniels in Washington or even J.J. McCarthy in Minnesota if he supplants Sam Darnold and wonder, “Why isn’t our guy out there getting reps and learning on the job? If you know it’s inevitable, why not put him out there? Why not throw him in the deep end like the team did with Drew Bledsoe 31 years ago? He turned out pretty good.”

It's a valid question. There are two schools of thought and neither are necessarily wrong. But given the Patriots' recent history with a first-round quarterback going belly-up when confronted with a second-year situation that he wasn’t equipped to handle, the team is clearly in a more nurturing frame of mind with Maye. Beyond that, personnel overlord Eliot Wolf’s background in Green Bay, where the Packers allowed rookies like Aaron Rodgers and Jordan Love to sit and learn, is informing what the Patriots do now.

No, Jacoby Brissett isn’t Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers. But watching Brissett in his first OTA practice, the first impression is: he’s good. More likely than not, Brissett won’t be the problem for the Patriots in 2024. With an offensive coaching staff that has to figure each other out and then the players at their disposal all while implementing an entirely new offense and way of doing things, Brissett is the perfect player to have in front of Maye.

Let Brissett, at 31, ride the tsunami wave of change the organization’s going through. Let Maye work on the things that will get him started on the ladder that moves him from his current floor to – hopefully – a higher plane of efficiency.

“He is learning a new playbook,” Mayo said. “He is learning a new language, he is learning his teammates, he’s learning the fundamentals that we preach here. So, it’s a lot for him, but at the same time, I know he can handle it and I just look forward to seeing him progress.”

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