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Patriots Notes: Dissecting what we saw from Drake Maye on Day 1 of OTAs

Patriots Notes: Dissecting what we saw from Drake Maye on Day 1 of OTAs originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

FOXBORO -- Eliot Wolf made it very clear all the way back at the combine, well before Drake Maye or anyone else was drafted to New England, well before any free agents were signed. He knew what his team-building philosophy would be, and how it would differ from Bill Belichick's.

"I think there’s going to be a little bit more reliance on playing young players," Wolf said at the time. "I think it’s really important in today’s football to be able to play young players and develop from within."

Draft and develop. Draft and develop. That was the drumbeat of the Patriots offseason.

Why, then, at the first Organized Team Activity practice of the spring, was Maye looking like the third-string quarterback?

The 21-year-old from North Carolina took reps behind Jacoby Brissett and Bailey Zappe on Monday, working in ahead of fellow rookie Joe Milton.

Could be a multitude of reasons as to why the No. 3 overall pick would be third up.

Could be that the most efficient way to run practice would be to have the still-learning rookies go third and fourth in the pecking order behind the vets. Could be a nod to the older players that they'll be given an opportunity to compete for jobs. Could be a message to the young players that they have to earn their stripes.

All would be understandable. Unless and until that type of dispersal of practice reps inhibits Maye's growth.

At this point, it's too early to say that things will continue on that way. Patriots head coach Jerod Mayo told reporters before the first of 13 OTA workouts that the rep dispersal for quarterbacks would not necessarily be indicative of how things would function moving forward.

"No, that won’t be indicative of what we do," Mayo explained. "I think it’s a day-by-day thing. You know, you try to keep all those guys around the same rep count. But at the same time, on any given day, this guy could get 30 reps and another guy could get five. But then as we work through the week, it could kind of flip."

And it should flip at some point. Maye is in the long-term plans of the organization. He is the long-term plan for the organization. Brissett will be given a real chance to start Week 1. Both need practice with their new teammates. And lots of it.

Zappe and Milton, meanwhile, could be competing for a third spot.

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In a story by Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer, it's made clear that the team plans to "narrow the competition down to three guys" by the time training camp begins. Asked on Monday about shrinking the room, Mayo acknowledged that would happen eventually.

"Once we get to training camp, that’s real football," he said. "So out here in the spring, we’ll rock with four. But, as soon as we get to training camp, you have to start paring down the roster."

Reporters will be back out on the fields behind Gillette Stadium for OTA work on May 29. The Patriots know that how the work is divided up will get close attention, and perhaps practice will have a different look then.

But on Day 1, in a league where highly-drafted quarterbacks typically play early, it was noteworthy to see New England's highly-drafted passer wait for his turn behind not one but two of his veteran teammates.

Here are some of our other takeaways from Monday's work...

Maye footwork in focus

Drake Maye
Drake Maye throws passes on the practice field behind Gillette Stadium.

The Patriots will hold sessions of their "Quarterback School" on a regular basis with this new offensive coaching staff. Mike McCarthy has brought passer-specific drills with him all over the league and now two of his former assistants in Green Bay -- Alex Van Pelt and Ben McAdoo -- have an opportunity to do some of the same things in Foxboro.

Quarterbacks worked on gaining ground as they took snaps and moved away from under center. They worked on getting through bags on the ground, with their eyes up, trying to then make accurate throws into a net. They threw from an imagined pocket and outside.

For Maye, whose footwork has been criticized since well before the draft, he looked fluid on the move. There were moments where he seemed deliberate and methodical in his drop. But -- outside of one run-in with a bag -- you'd be hard-pressed to call his footwork a problem. In real time, it's not discernibly different from that of his veteran teammates.

He did appear to rush through some steps in a team drill that led to a misfire on a checkdown. But it's clear he's a good athlete. It would be interesting to hear from his offensive coaches as to what they deem to be fixable in the short-term and how they've seen him progress in a short period of time.

Expect the "Quarterback School" to continue to be a staple in spring practices.

Maye tidbits

Maye completed six of his seven competitive attempts, with an incompletion (mentioned above) on a checkdown. He threw behind another short throw to a running back but made two throws with zip to the sideline for completions on out routes.

Maye could be seen throughout the practice talking to Van Pelt and McAdoo, and he spent some time going over things with Brissett as well. Late in the practice, Brissett and Maye shared offensive reps on one field while Zappe and Milton took snaps on the other.

When the session was over, Maye threw to rookie wideouts Ja'Lynn Polk and Javon Baker for several minutes. They were the last three on the field.

Offensive line shakeup

Mike Onwenu
Patriots offensive lineman Mike Onwenu re-signed with the team earlier in the offseason

It's a different group in the trenches these days. Mike Onwenu remains at right tackle after re-signing in the offseason. Next to him on Monday was veteran newcomer Nick Leverett at right guard. David Andrews manned the center spot with Sidy Sow at left guard and Chukwuma Okorafor at left tackle.

Okorafor signed as a free agent after six years at right tackle with Pittsburgh.

"I think it takes time," Okorafor said after practice when asked about playing on the left side of the line. "I played right my whole time (with the Steelers). It's obviously new. I'm trying to learn left as of now. I'm just trying to learn a whole new playbook. I'm trying to learn a whole new city, a whole new town, so everything is kind of new to me now."

Attendance check

Matthew Judon, Davon Godchaux, Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings were not spotted at the session.

Judon is in the final year of his deal. After having money moved from 2024 to 2023 last summer, his contract is scheduled to pay him a base salary of $6.5 million. Coming off a season-ending injury, Judon's contract situation and availability bear watching.

Uche and Jennings signed new deals this offseason. Godchaux, meanwhile, is in the final year of his contract but has no guaranteed money due to him, per Over the Cap.

Cole Strange, Kendrick Bourne and Jahlani Tavai were all present but not participating. Bourne and Strange are coming back off season-ending injuries. Tavai was limping on the field and appears to be dealing with a lower-body ailment.

On Strange's injury, Mayo said, "He’s more of a, let’s say, week-by-week or you can go month-by-month if you want to."

Stevenson a busy man

On a day that saw the Patriots offense focus on early-down work, Rhamondre Stevenson had plenty to do. Not only did he take a number of zone handoffs. But he was also targeted both in the screen game and the traditional drop-back passing game. He appeared quick and looked well-conditioned.

Quick-hitters

Kayshon Boutte made the catch of the day along the sideline, sprawling out for a Milton offering... Milton didn't receive any 11-on-11 reps but was sharp in 7-on-7 work, completing all four of his passes... Milton overshot one receiver on a fade while working against air... K.J. Osborn had a drop... Zappe fumbled a snap... Kyle Dugger broke up a pass from Brissett in seven-on-seven work... Van Pelt wore a microphone during practice, his audio captured by the in-house content team for a video to be released at a later date... Music was played throughout almost the entirety of the session.