Phil Perry

How Maye flashed high-end potential, and more minicamp takeaways

Phil Perry shares his top observations from the Patriots' final minicamp practice.

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FOXBORO -- Jerod Mayo had a pretty good idea of what kind of player he was getting in Drake Maye when the Patriots turned in the card on their No. 3 overall choice in this year's draft.

Maye's athleticism and arm strength were apparent on tape. The level of toughness he brought to the quarterback position was clear at times, too, as he rebounded from some soul-rattling shots as a collegian. But until Mayo watched Maye up close and saw how he handled bad plays as a pro, it'd be hard to say for sure how the face of the franchise would cope in those moments.

Now, after spending almost two months around him, Mayo is getting a better feel for that element of Maye's makeup.

"Look, this is a guy who we spent an extensive amount of time [getting to know] his background, his family, how he was on the field, how he was off the field," Mayo said prior to Wednesday's practice. "We knew the person that we were getting. I would say the surprising thing is just the way he's able to pull the nose up, right?

"What I mean by saying that is he makes a bad throw, it's out of his head. Move on to the next play. I think Jacoby [Brissett] has done a great job, as well as [offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt] and the rest of the staff, really helping him out with that. You’re going to make mistakes, and this is the time to make those mistakes."

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Mayo couldn't have known it at the time, but he was foreshadowing how the final practice of minicamp was about to go for Maye. There were about to be bad plays. But Maye would pull his nose up and bounce back with some of the best plays of the week.

Here are some of our top takeaways from Wednesday's minicamp session, beginning with what we saw from Maye...

Slow start, big finish

Drake Maye finished Wednesday's practice 7-for-11 in competitive 11-on-11 work. He threw for three touchdown passes in those periods -- more on them in a minute -- but also had one pass picked off and two more broken up. He would have been sacked on two more reps had the situations been live.

It was a rough practice for him in the early going. After two checkdowns in the first 11-on-11 period of the day -- a period that began with 1:19 on the clock -- Maye was sacked by Oshane Ximines. One play later, he watched as Azizi Hearn undercut his throw to JuJu Smith-Schuster and took it back the other way. Maye could've been rushed by pressure from William Bradley-King, but Maye never seemed to see Hearn before the turnover.

In a 7-on-7 period soon thereafter, Maye was almost picked again when it looked like he didn't see Christian Elliss. The linebacker appeared to get his hands on the football, knocking it away, but Maye was fortunate the pass wasn't picked. Kayshon Boutte dropped Maye's next pass, a well-placed would-be touchdown, and JaMycal Hasty reeled in his final attempt of the period -- an on-the-run pass threaded into traffic near the goal line.

Shaky. But Maye warmed up later in the session when the Patriots went back to full-team work.

Slant to Boutte. Touchdown to Boutte in the back left corner of the end zone with Alex Austin in tight coverage. Touchdown to Boutte in the back left corner of the end zone with Mikey Victor in tight coverage.

Accurate. On time. Into closing windows. After a difficult early stretch of practice, it might've been easy for him to pack it in and lean in the direction of protecting the football with safer throws. But his confidence in his arm shined through, as it often did while he was at North Carolina. And the Patriots offense -- Boutte, in particular -- benefited.

Maye's final period of practice included another sack and a couple of pass attempts batted away (one by Austin, one by Hearn). Nose up, his final toss was floated to fellow rookie Ja'Lynn Polk in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. In a got-to-have-it spot with one second on the clock, Maye finished with a flourish.

It wasn't a perfect day for Maye. But, as his head coach pointed out prior to the start of practice, he showed he wasn't going to let a bad play or two waylay the rest of his day.

"That’s something to go home with," Maye said later. "First OTAs, first minicamp, end on a catch like that from a fellow rookie — first and second-rounder. It’s pretty cool.”

Maye is planning on spending the next few weeks in the area, he told reporters, throwing to the rookies who are expected to be sticking around.

What are the next steps for him?

He's still working through mechanical changes that are new to him. He's still grasping the terminology involved with his new offense. But it's my understanding that the team is pleased with how he's grown in his command of the play calls, and his confidence is evident on the field and behind the scenes.

Two throws on Monday of this week -- a fading-to-his-left dime of a touchdown pass and a sidearm on-the-run flip -- stood out to teammates and coaches as among the most impressive plays of minicamp practice No. 1. Both put on display the overwhelming belief he has in his own ability to try things despite their high degree of difficulty.

If he can combine those high-end flashes with more consistency from the pocket and a further-developed understanding of the offense into which he's been thrust, if he can perform in any opportunities he's given against starting-level defenders in training camp, it might be hard to keep him off the field for long during his first regular season as a pro.

"He's done a great job," Mayo said. "He's going in the right direction. Now, in saying that, we know there are going to be some down days. That's one thing that I've been trying to stress to him is, “Alright, just keep chipping at the rock, get one percent better every day. It's not always going to be great. He’s done a good job."

Ja'Lynn Polk pops in minicamp

Through three OTA practices open to reporters, Ja'Lynn Polk had been relatively quiet. But on Monday he caught a touchdown pass from Jacoby Brissett in 11-on-11 work and grabbed another in 7-on-7 action when Brissett targeted him in a crowd in the back of the end zone.

On Wednesday, Polk was back at it. Brissett found him in the back of the end zone in 11-on-11 work for a touchdown that Polk celebrated vociferously. Later, Maye hit Polk with the practice-ending touchdown that forced the Patriots defense to rep out pushups as the losers of that particular scenario.

“One second left," Polk said. "End of a game… Going up there and making a play for my team… I knew I was in. I knew I had two (feet) in."

Polk has come as advertised to those on the Patriots staff who got to know him prior to taking him in the second round of the draft. He has embraced the steady installation of Alex Van Pelt's playbook, showing a good understanding of the larger menu of plays available to the offense in minicamp.

And while he has often been touted as an all-the-little-things type of player -- tough, a willing blocker, etc. -- it's been pointed out to me by those in the building that he has some high-end physical skills that have them believing he'll be more than a role player in their receiver room.

Mike Onwenu back inside?

Mayo insisted to reporters prior to Wednesday's practice that they shouldn't be keeping unofficial depth charts. But it'd be hard not to see Mike Onwenu -- deemed by the Patriots and others in the league to be the best tackle available in free agency this offseason -- playing guard and wonder why.

That shift for Onwenu occurred initially on Monday and then continued into Wednesday. He played right guard for every competitive snap in the second and final minicamp practice of the week. At right tackle, Onwenu's spot through most of the spring, usually was rookie Caedan Wallace.

Why the move? At this point in the calendar, it can likely be chalked up to cross-training multiple linemen. Wallace has seen some time at left tackle this spring, though his time on that side -- he made all 40 of his collegiate starts at right tackle -- diminished during minicamp. Veteran free-agent addition Nick Leverett played guard and center this week.

Are the Patriots done experimenting with Wallace at left tackle after taking him in the third round of this year's draft? Are they thinking that Onwenu at right guard gives them their best line combination -- in part perhaps because neither Leverett nor rookie fourth-rounder Layden Robinson have been able to stand out at guard? Are they simply trying to build some center depth with Leverett at that spot since second-year center Jake Andrews has been banged up this spring?

Once the pads come on, it'll be interesting to see how the Patriots deploy their line since continuity and chemistry at those five spots are vital. They'll want to have a go-to combination determined as quickly as possible.

Contracts in focus

The Patriots want Matthew Judon and Davon Godchaux. They know the degree to which those two can impact the front seven of Mayo's defense. What they need to figure out now is how much they're willing to pony up to keep all parties satisfied.

Judon participated in both minicamp practices this week and expressed on The Rich Shertenlieb Show recently that he wasn't going to conduct a "hold-in" of sorts the way he did a year ago prior to re-working his contract.

Phil Perry and Mike Giardi weigh in on Matthew Judon's current contract and his value to the Patriots.

Godchaux, meanwhile, was present for mandatory minicamp but did not participate in team periods. He could be seen doing some conditioning on the field while his teammates took part in more competitive drills. Godchaux is in the last year of his deal with New England and as a vested veteran, his $7.15 million base salary for this season is not guaranteed until Week 1.

His absence is contract-related, Mayo indicated.

"Look, we want him here," Mayo said. "He's one of our best players. He's working. I will say that. He is working. He's here every single day, has been here every single day. We look forward to getting him on the field in camp...

"There are guys that, obviously, they want to redo contracts and stuff like that. And not just DG, it's a bunch of guys that want to do those things, and we're working through it. Eliot [Wolf] and his staff, they do a great job as far as handling that. I don't get into the player contracts."

The other QBs

Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer reported earlier this spring that the Patriots intended to narrow their quarterback reps for three quarterbacks, and they appear to have gotten there now that minicamp has wrapped up. 

It actually looks more like a two-quarterback race headed into training camp.

On Wednesday, Jacoby Brissett made 19 competitive throws in 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 action. Drake Maye made 15 competitive throws in those periods. Bailey Zappe had four attempts, all in 7-on-7 action. Joe Milton didn't make a competitive team throw during the session. 

On Monday, the division of labor was similar. Brissett had 21 competitive attempts. Maye had 19. Zappe had 10, and Milton had six.

It should come as little surprise that Milton, a sixth-round pick, has seen his work tail off. But Zappe seeing his 11-on-11 reps disappear on Wednesday while being limited to four 7-on-7 throws -- he went 2-for-4 with a touchdown throw to rookie tight end Jaheim Bell -- is a sign that the Patriots want to give Brissett what he needs to get ready for Week 1 and Maye what he needs to develop as quickly as possible.

Mayo said he "absolutely" sees the Patriots keeping four quarterbacks for training camp. But there are only so many practice reps to go around, and Brissett and Maye look like they'll see the bulk of those moving forward based on what we saw at minicamp.

Kayshon Boutte push

Kayshon Boutte had what was likely his best practice as a member of the Patriots on Wednesday. 

His contested touchdown grab -- with corner Alex Austin reaching up and in between Boutte's arms but unable to break up the attempt -- was impressive. He followed that up with a toe-tapper in the back of the end zone that had the entire offense fired up. Including a touchdown earlier in the practice from Brissett, Boutte ended up in the end zone three times altogether.

Boutte dropped a touchdown from Maye in 7-on-7 work, but he still stood out as one of the offense's best players on Day 2 of minicamp practice. 

The Patriots receiver room is crowded, but with Smith-Schuster looking limited at times and Javon Baker missing some practice time as he deals with an undisclosed issue -- he was present Wednesday but didn't appear to be participating in team work -- Boutte may have an opportunity to compete for a roster spot this summer.


  • The Patriots spent some of their warm-up time Wednesday with tight ends throwing fades to offensive linemen and quarterbacks. Nick Leverett, David Andrews, and Caedan Wallace all came up with good-looking one-handed grabs. Linemen are athletes, too.
  • In an ode to Tom Brady on Tom Brady Night, the team played "Public Service Announcement" by Jay-Z -- Brady's entrance song at Gillette Stadium -- when the music got cranked up early in the workout.
  • Joe Milton didn't get many competitive reps in practice, but his arm still looks live in drills. And he showed off his acrobatic movement skills by pulling off a summersault-into-a-back-flip maneuver between reps early in practice.
  • Azizi Hearn and Kyle Dugger had the two lone interceptions in minicamp... Hearn (2), Christian Elliss (2), Jabrill Peppers, Marte Mapu, Jaylinn Hawkins, Isaiah Bolden, Joe Giles-Harris, Marco Wilson, Brenden Schooler, and Alex Austin all had pass breakups in minicamp.
  • JaMycal Hasty caught eight of nine of the competitive throws sent his way in two days of minicamp practices. Along with Rhamondre Stevenson and Antonio Gibson, he was among the busiest backs of the week, at times taking reps with Brissett.
  • Tyquan Thornton and Tyrone Wheatley weren't spotted Wednesday after participating in Monday's work. Josh Uche was doing some conditioning after not being seen on Monday. Jahlani Tavai, Kendrick Bourne, Cole Strange, Jake Andrews, and Sione Takitaki didn't participate in either practice.
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