Drake Maye’s future may be bright, but the Patriots offense still has a long way to go

FOXBORO, Mass. — Two things could be true at once with the New England Patriots offense.

First, rookie quarterback Drake Maye has provided plenty of reasons to be excited about his future as the face of the franchise.

Second, as the offense currently stands after mandatory minicamp, the Patriots have a lot of work to do to make substantial progress from the unit that scored the second-fewest points in the NFL in 2023. Good While it’s easy to explain this away as a new look in the middle of a significant transition period, it also can’t be ignored.

Veteran starter Jacoby Brissett finished 10 of 19 during team drills Wednesday in the minicamp finale. He was 25 of 45 (55.6 percent) in both minicamp practices, including 18 of 31 during 11-on-11 play. Based on the Patriots’ previous minicamp streaks, a starter should complete 70 to 75 percent of his passes in these settings, so Brissett’s low number stands out.


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Brissett is not entirely to blame. Throughout the week, there were miscommunications with blocking assignments – in addition to numerous occasions where the offensive line gave up pressure far too quickly – as well as an apparent play mishap and moments when pass catchers saw things differently than the quarterback.

If that sounds bad, remember that it would be huge to expect this new offense to look like it should in the fall. New coaches teach new players a new scheme. It will take time to sync.

There was a worrying sequence during a seven-on-seven period Wednesday when Brissett didn’t see cornerback Isaiah Bolden sitting under a post and ran away with a ball that should have been intercepted. Brissett followed this by being late on a drag route to running back Antonio Gibson, which linebacker Joe Giles-Harris broke up before lofting a throw across the end zone out of tight end Austin’s reach Hooper.

On the next 11-on-11 session, Brissett was “sacked” when defensive tackle Daniel Ekuale crossed the line, then threw far behind receiver KJ Osborn’s slanted pattern, then failed to connect with the wideout Kayshon Boutte after a chaotic game. sequence of actions.

Brissett also produced some good moments, including a perfect throw to well-covered rookie wide receiver Ja’Lynn Polk on a nifty move for a touchdown. One play later, the QB broke free of pressure and hit Boutte on an outside route for another score. Still, there were more occasions where the offense looked out of sync.

Maye, on the other hand, flashed more frequently. He finished 8 of 15 with an interception on Wednesday and 27 of 42 (64.3%) overall in minicamp, including 18 of 28 with the pick in 11-on-11.

There were times earlier this week where his processing speed seemed slow – remember, he’s been training for a month – and that was an issue early Wednesday with a miscommunication on his second pass and then one play later when his back foot throw to receiver JuJu. Smith-Schuster was easily intercepted by cornerback Azizi Hearn. A period later, Maye nearly threw another pick when a defender slipped under tight end Hunter Henry’s route.

Maye hit an impressive pace later in practice, however. After missing five of his first eight passes, Maye and the offense took over at the defense’s 10-yard line, and the rookie threw three straight touchdowns to Boutte – first on an angle in a tight window against cornerback Alex Austin, then against Austin again on a jump and toe tap route and finally a perfect corner fade with cornerback Mikey Victor attached to his belt buckle.

Maye opened his final period by hitting Boutte in the seam between three defenders, then recovered from two subsequent misses to connect with Polk for a nice diving catch in the back of the end zone.

Even better? Maye told Polk a series earlier that the final fade route was going to be in play for him. So, the rookie QB saw things developing in real time, then put the exclamation point on minicamp with a touchdown in a “gotta have it” situation with 1 second on the clock.

Once Maye gets the hang of play calling in the huddle, checks at the line, and court vision to have confidence in his reads, he should have a real opportunity to start. There was enough exposure this week in minicamp to believe such a door could open at some point in August.

Here are several other takeaways from the week.

Go Gonzo

It’s hard to argue with cornerback Christian Gonzalez on this point.

Asked if he felt 100%, the 2023 first-round pick smiled, nodded and replied, “You all saw it there. I feel good.”

Physically, Gonzalez stood out this week. He is fluid and athletic, uses his length to his advantage and competes in every rep. He was beaten several times on Monday, but a few times in plays he wasn’t able to make plays with the physicality needed, such as against a speed out in the end zone. These are the types of adjustments that will come with more experience.

Gonzalez has all the makings of a true No. 1 cornerback. Whether it happens this year or next, expect Gonzalez to turn a lot more heads in the near future.

Contract orders

Running back Rhamondre Stevenson got everyone’s attention Monday when he said he was “pretty close” to landing a new contract with the Patriots.

On top of that, a league source said there had been progress and a new deal could be in the works, but it seemed like there were still things to be worked out. It’s certainly plausible, with the way de facto general manager Eliot Wolf has handled extensions of the franchise’s best young players, the Patriots are taking care of this matter on relatively short notice.

Patriots coach Jerod Mayo on Wednesday hinted at defensive tackle Davon Godchaux also hoping for a new deal. Godchaux, who turns 30 in November, is in the final year of his two-year, $15 million extension. He is expected to earn $7.15 million in base salary, plus up to $1 million in bonuses per game.

It’s unclear where Godchaux’s desires lie or how willing the Patriots are to give him an extension. One thought: Could the team just guarantee Godchaux enough salary to guarantee he’ll be on the roster in 2024? This would give him peace of mind knowing he wouldn’t be hit by the cap hit at the end of camp and therefore face a salary squeeze when he needs to find a new team.

Polk dot the feet

Polk’s final catch on Maye was the best moment of camp. It was a competitive period for offense and defense with push-ups and trash talk involved, and it would be the last play of the day regardless of the outcome.

Polk, who saw a ball knocked away by Austin on the previous play, stepped on Victor in the end zone, reached out to shake off Maye’s quick lob and stomped his foot down the sideline to secure caught him.

Officials initially ruled it incomplete before a group conferred outside the end zone as players and coaches from both sides pushed for their cause. They finally signaled the TD after nearly a minute of deliberations. (From my perspective, it looked like a clear landing.)

“Go out there and compete for the ball,” Polk said. “When the team is counting on you, I want to put that chip on my shoulder and make the play.”

Polk recorded a touchdown Wednesday from Brissett and Maye, as well as a reception from each during Monday’s practice. The 2024 second-rounder wasn’t a volume producer at minicamp, but his catches were all loud.

Who kicks?

The jury is still out on this question.

Kickers Chad Ryland and Joey Slye have been inconsistent this week, so there is concern that 2023’s field goal issues could carry over into the upcoming season.

Ryland was 16 of 25 (64 percent) as a rookie. Slye was 19 for 24 in 2023 with the Washington Commanders, but his conversion rate fell from 92 percent in 2021 to 83.3 percent in 2022 to 79.2 percent in 2023.

Expect the Patriots to have kickers on speed dial if they fear this trend continuing in camp.

Leftover mayonnaise

We couldn’t fit all the nuggets in recent articles about the Patriots’ new brain trust and the return of Dont’a Hightower, who joined the coaching staff this offseason, so let’s pass along a few now .


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Both Hightower and Mayo are strong candidates for possible induction into the Patriots Hall of Fame. (Mayo is eligible now. Hightower will be in 2026.)

“Put him in there before I put him in there,” Mayo said, vouching for his close friend.

Mayo captained seven times during his eight-year career and passed the torch to a more than capable successor in Hightower to close out his playing career.

“My mother always said to leave it in better condition than how you found it,” Mayo said. “I felt really good passing the torch to guys like Hightower and the other people in the room.”

And here’s one final quote about expectations for the Patriots as they finish a 4-13 season.

“I think we need to be honest with ourselves,” Mayo said. “To sit here and say we’re guaranteed the Super Bowl would be stupid. The main goal, at least for me, was to get the coaches here and build the staff. Wins and losses, obviously, are the priority. But it’s really about how we smooth out the process, how we put guys on the field who want to compete and play for each other.

“When I think of success, I think of a team that flies around, loves what they do, and executes at a very high level, play by play. I’m going to be judged on wins and losses at the end of the day , and I wouldn’t want to be judged on anything else.

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(Photo by Drake Maye: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

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