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Patriots Minicamp Report: Drake Maye Continues His Wizard Training

I could've been doing anything with my time today. Stayed home. Taken a walk on the beach on this Chamber of Commerce weather day. Relaxed on the patio of Stately Thornton Manor. Plunked myself down in front of the Karen Read trial. But no. For your amusement and education, I traveled two hours round trip to Patriots minicamp. All I ask is that my sense of duty and self-sacrifice be an inspiration to others. 

--The first sensory perception you have that practices in the Jerod Mayo Era are different is audio in nature. It's not like Hip Hop was never heard in the Bill Belichick Epoch in between all the Bon Jovi. It's just that now, it's nonstop. "Mr. Jones" by Mike Jones. "Wants and Needs" by Li'l Baby. (I never leave home without the Shazam app fully updated.) And one I didn't search in which "vacation" was rhymed with "fornication" and (I think) "PlayStation." All of which were played at a volume somewhere between my son's car stereo as he'd pull into the driveway and my alluring Irish Rose raising her voice at the phone when it's on Speaker mode. Even though I'm more of a Yacht-Rock-turned-up-to-5 kind of guy, I'm not complaining. I just kind of miss being able to hear the coaches "What the fuck?" guys when they screw up a rep. Having practice be more of a SoulCycle class takes some getting used to. 

--The focus of today was, as the OTA workouts were, the passing game. Particularly short passes. With a few 11-on-11s sprinkled in, but the vast majority were 7-on-7s. So make of any of this what you will. There's a limit to much you can glean from guys in crop tops and shorts (unless you're really into that sort of thing; no judgment here) without blockers and pass rushers doing the "1-Mississippi" thing.

--The first thing that jumps out at you in any scenario though, is that Jacoby Brissett is the front man of this band. Of that, there is no question. He's getting the first team reps, such as they are in mid-June. He seems the most comfortable in Alex Van Pelt's offense, whatever that may be. He gets the ball out fastest on his reps. And when someone else is under center, he's the one the other red shirts gravitate to for sideline conversations. In goal line work, he hit rookie Ja'Lynn Polk in stride right on the hands with a perfect touchpass for a TD. Though he did sail one over Tyquan Thornton on a corner fade. He struggled somewhat in a 2-minute, no time outs drill, throwing three straight incompletions after connecting with Hunter Henry on the first snap. And at least one of those passes was almost picked off by Kyle Dugger after it was tipped. But nevertheless, if you were beamed to the fields behind Gillette from another dimension where you know nothing about football but have studied human behavior, you would immediately recognize who the Alpha of this hierarchy is. 

--And while I'd never insult Maye with the term Beta, he's clearly Brissett's understudy. The QB1 in training. A freshman at Hogwarts taking his first Defense Against the Dark Arts class and still a few semesters away from taking his O.W.L.s tests. 

Giphy Images.

But his progress from the first workout of OTAs to today was visible. A lot was made before, during, and after the draft about his shitty footwork. His fundamentals in the pocket, the little kicks and the thumbs, like a full body dry heave. But the extensive training he's no doubt receiving is taking hold. The whole mechanics of his throwing is more efficient than what you saw in the 75,000 scouting reports from when he was at North Carolina. With his feet directly connected to his arm the way it was meant to be. 

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--Maye went 3-for-3 in goal line, with three touchdowns. One to Jalen Reagor, who was the best pass catcher on the day, regardless of who he was running routes for. He hit Jaheim Bell - who's one of five tight ends on the roster - along the back line of the endzone. Then seemed to go through his progressions before finding Kayshon Boutte on an out route for a score. And in that same 2:00 drill, managed to move the sticks at least before turning it over on downs like Brissett did. And he completed more throws in 11s than anyone. Overall, it's safe to say he had his best practice out of any that the media have been allowed to disgrace with our presence. 

--As for you Bailey Zappe stans, while I wouldn't turn that No. 4 jersey you bought into a chamois for your car just yet, I wouldn't cling to much hope either. It's remarkable how small he looks after you've been watching Brissett, Maye and Joe Milton III under center. And his arm is noticeably weaker when you're comparing him to those three instead of Mac Jones. In that same 2-minute drill, he got picked off on his first attempt. And while this doesn't actually matter, it's kind of jarring to see him on the field in a faded looking red jersey. I can't help but think of a kid who missed the first day of practices, so the coach dug around in the back of the equipment shed for the last available uniform all the other kids passed over. 

--Milton on the other hand, stands out. He never really got to air it out with a deep ball, because it wasn't that kind of practice. The focus was on short- to intermediate passes and goal line. But in that same no timeouts drill, he threw an 8-yard laser to Bell on the first rep. He then took a "sack" before connecting with Reagor on the boundary with another dart to get all those yards back plus some. Before demonstrating while a guy with his arm strength fell to the 6th round when he missed everybody and everything on 4th. So he's very much the work in progress we all thought he'd be. But on a team simply trying to set themselves up for future success, it's hard not to compare Milton's ceiling with Zappe and think he's the guy worth investing in going forward. 

--This has gone under the radar a bit, but the Pats have kept Chad Ryland around for another go, but are challenging him with Joey Slye, who's been with four teams over five years. I watched the two of them kicking with that little wire holder thing for a while. Which has to be a weird dynamic. Two guys going for one job, stuck all alone together. A kicker version of The Prisoner's Dilemma. From what I could see, from 50 yards, they were matching each other miss for miss. But since they didn't sign any UDFA's after the draft and this is the choice we're left with, I'm going with Slye. Because Joey Slye sounds like the name of a colorful mobster. Or the Private Eye in one of those 1940s shows they play on Radio Classics. But more to the point, because a single season of Ryland was enough for one lifetime. I can't believe Eliot Wolf didn't address this obvious postition of need. While firing whatever scout recommended him.

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--All in all, it was a great day to see this team getting back at it. With more or less a full squad, including Matt Judon, Christian Gonzalez, Henry and all the free agents who were resigned. The only injury I noticed was Isaiah Bolden, who appeared to take a shot to the groin. Toughed it out for a couple of reps. But then finally tapped out with his hand clutching his yam bag. I'm also happy to report the assistant on the sideline was smiling at him. Happy because it means he can't have been too badly injured. But also glad because it proves that no matter how old you are and how serious the situation you find yourself in, it's never not funny when another guy gets hit in the nuts.