Here are 7 takeaways from Patriots rookie minicamp at Gillette Stadium

The New England Patriots’ rookies got their first taste of on-field action at the next level over the weekend at rookie minicamp.

Keep in mind, this had a first-day-of-school, orientation-like vibe to it. So it wasn’t a situation in which the rookies were jumping right into the fire and competing for roster spots. Rookie minicamp is used more as a time set aside as a crash course to get the young players up to speed before throwing them in with the veterans.

With that said, it was still an opportunity to get an early look at the new group of talent joining the Patriots. There’s hope some of them will hit the ground running and start contributing right away. The team’s ability to succeed under coach Jerod Mayo right out of the gates will depend on it.

Here are seven takeaways from the limited on-field work the rookies had over the weekend:

1. A light start for the rookies

This wasn’t an intense competitive setting for the Patriots’ rookies. That will obviously come later down the line. The purpose of this rookie minicamp appeared to be set more on improving fundamentals and light repetitions.

So there wasn’t a lot to go on in terms of performance right out of the gates. The aim for the Patriots was obviously improving offensively through the draft with seven of their eight rookies coming from that side of the ball. We’ll get a better sense of where those players stand when they start getting into competitive work with defenders standing across from them.

That’s when we’ll find out if fans really should bring their popcorn for the Drake Maye and Javon Baker connection.

Patriots wide receiver Javon Baker runs with the ball after a catch rookie camp.
Patriots wide receiver Javon Baker runs with the ball after a catch rookie camp.

2. Two big arms are better than one

The Patriots were clearly looking for high-end arm talent in the draft, which was obvious by them selecting both Drake Maye and Joe Milton III. Both rookie quarterbacks are capable of launching the ball into orbit and making it look effortless.

That talent was on full display at rookie minicamp.

The hope is for the Patriots to be able to put the ball in places they weren’t able to with Mac Jones under center. Granted, the team didn’t do right by Jones in the available offensive talent around him, but it also isn’t a stretch to say he didn’t have the same arm talent as a player such as Maye.

Patriots quarterback Joe Milton III prepares to throw a pass during rookie camp.
Patriots quarterback Joe Milton III prepares to throw a pass during rookie camp.

That isn’t to say Maye is guaranteed to have a better run in New England. He still has to nail the fundamentals and go out onto the field and compete like everyone else. But his natural abilities with the ball in his hands will be fun to watch.

And the same goes for Milton. The former Tennessee Volunteer obviously needs work on the timing and touch on his throws, but it’s clear the ridiculous arm talent made him well worth a flier for the Patriots. His arrival makes things more competitive in the quarterback room than it’s been in years.

3. Caedan Wallace takes over the blindside

There have been so many questions surrounding left tackle for the Patriots with Trent Brown leaving for the Cincinnati Bengals. Who is going to protect the blindside for the quarterback with last year’s starter gone and no one in the pipeline to take over?

Things got even more confusing when the team used their third-round draft pick on Penn State right tackle Caedan Wallace. The hope from the start was that Wallace’s incredible athleticism would allow him to make the transition to the blind side. That process obviously started over the weekend with Wallace seen taking snaps at left tackle.

It’s important to keep in mind that he practiced on the left side routinely while at Penn State, and he played in that spot during his high school run. So this isn’t a situation of a player starting from scratch at an unfamiliar position. Penn State just had a run of great left tackles ahead of Wallace, including Olu Fashanu, who was drafted in the first round by the New York Jets.

“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 said via CLNS’ Taylor Kyles. “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.”

4. Jerod Mayo is going to challenge the rookies

Coach Jerod Mayo is obviously happy to see the rookie draft picks join the Patriots, but it’s also clear that he isn’t shying away from challenging them to produce on the field.

He complimented quarterback Drake Maye on his willingness to work long hours to pick up the playbook, but he also acknowledged the rookie signal-caller had “a lot to work on.”

Patriots quarterback Drake Maye hands the ball to running back Terrell Jennings at rookie camp in Foxboro.
Patriots quarterback Drake Maye hands the ball to running back Terrell Jennings at rookie camp in Foxboro.

It was the same for fourth-round pick receiver Javon Baker, who boisterously said that he’s so exciting on the field, he makes “people in wheelchairs stand up.” While Mayo appreciates Baker’s confidence, he wants to see him back the talk up on the field.

“Now, once he puts it out there, he has to show it every day out here on the football field,” Mayo said. “If not, he’s just a talker, and you start to lose the respect of the locker room and things like that. Look, he said it. He put it out there, and now you’ve got to show us.”

Mayo is showing from the start that he’s going to hold players accountable and they’re going to have to earn every opportunity they get in New England. Things might feel a bit more relaxed in the post-Bill Belichick era, but the aspect of holding players accountable seemingly hasn’t changed.

Patriots head coach Jerod Mayo watches practice at rookie camp.
Patriots head coach Jerod Mayo watches practice at rookie camp.

5. Ja'Lynn Polk looks so smooth

Ja’Lynn Polk just might be the safest pick for the Patriots in the draft.

He looked like the ultimate professional on the field, despite being a rookie. There are some players that just get it, and Polk looks like one of those guys at the next level. With that said, he still needs to go out there and prove himself against defenders on the field, but it’s not hard to see why some are enamored with his talent.

Polk is such a smooth route-runner that he should instantly become a security blanket for whoever is at quarterback. His expansive route tree and footwork should put him in position to consistently make plays on offense.

Observers are calling for an explosive downfield playmaker, but the truth is the Patriots need guys that can consistently get open and make plays, period. Polk has the potential to be that kind of player for New England.

6. Is Javon Baker the X-factor?

The Patriots didn’t land a high-end deep threat receiver in free agency, but they might have stolen one in the draft.

Former Central Florida standout Javon Baker clearly has the potential to turn into the Patriots’ top explosive option at receiver. Whether he can put everything together in one-on-one coverage remains to be seen. He isn’t necessarily a burner as a straight-line runner but he’s explosive with the pads on.

Now, the Patriots obviously weren’t in pads at practice, but there’s a bunch of film that could be pulled from Baker’s college career that backs up that point. He was a human highlight machine at UCF.

It isn’t just his explosive potential that jumped out during his routes at rookie minicamp, either. Baker is also the kind of receiver who attacks the ball in the air, which led to him winning a number of contested jump-ball plays against opposing defensive backs in college.

Outside of the quarterback battle, Baker’s transition to the next level will be one of the more intriguing things to watch at training camp.

7. Layden Robinson inserted at left guard

I recently listed left guard Cole Strange as a loser in my winners and losers from the Patriots’ draft. It was surprising that the Patriots would use a fourth-round pick on offensive guard Layden Robinson despite their obvious needs at left tackle.

I wondered if the Patriots might be considering Robinson as legitimate competition for Strange, a former first-round draft pick. That thinking might end up being proven correct considering Robinson was taking snaps at left guard at rookie minicamp.

Patriots offensive tackle Caedan Wallace, left, and guard Layden Robinson arrive at practice during rookie camp in Foxboro.
Patriots offensive tackle Caedan Wallace, left, and guard Layden Robinson arrive at practice during rookie camp in Foxboro.

Improving at tackle isn't the only way to upgrade the offensive offensive line. The Patriots also could use an upgrade on the inside as well, which is why they decided to take Robinson. Strange could be on the hot seat with a new regime in place.

The former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga standout hasn’t lived up to expectations of a first-round pick. That honestly might not even be his fault, considering that most observers thought Bill Belichick reached too high for him on the draft board in 2022.

“He’s somebody who played a ton of college ball and has a ton of experience under his belt,”’s Evan Lazar said about Robinson when he was on Bopston radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub. “And just talking to him after practice, you can tell he’s an adult. He’s not a guy that’s coming in that needs a lot of seasoning to his game, and that’s what Jim Nagy told me as well, when I talked to him about him from the Senior Bowl. He just said, ‘Robinson, you could plug him in probably as a rookie, and he could start. He’s ready to go because of how much experience he has in a pretty big conference in college football.' "

This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: 7 takeaways from Patriots rookie camp at Gillette Stadium