Patriots Coaches Pinpoint Where Drake Maye and Joe Milton Must Improve Most

Patriots QBs Drake Maye and Joe Milton have a long way to go in their developments. What are they working hardest on behind the scenes?

FOXBORO, Mass. — Drake Maye has enough talent to be a franchise quarterback for the New England Patriots. But talent alone won’t be enough for the No. 3 overall pick, who currently is looking up at Jacoby Brissett on the Patriots’ QB depth chart.

Ahead of Tuesday’s OTA practice, multiple Patriots coaches highlighted where Maye and fellow sixth-round rookie Joe Milton must improve the most.

What Are Patriots Teaching Drake Maye and Joe Milton?

Offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt was asked to provide his initial impressions of Maye, who entered the 2024 NFL Draft as a wildly talented but flawed prospect needing a footwork overhaul.

“He’s come out, he’s taken everything from the classroom, everything from our individual periods, and he’s applied them to the team drills,” said Van Pelt, who also credited Maye for improving his footwork. “He’s been impressive so far.

“The biggest things we’re working with him right now, obviously, calling plays from the huddle, which is new to a lot of these college guys, and then just playing in rhythm and in time with your feet. That’s the biggest strides I’d say he’s made the last few weeks.”

There’s more to it than footwork and commanding a huddle.

Maye played in an Air Raid offense at UNC, whereas Milton ran an Air Raid offshoot, sometimes called the “veer and shoot,” at Tennessee. Both are now learning Van Pelt’s version of the traditional West Coast offense, which is significantly different.

“We’re teaching him a lot of new things — things he didn’t do in college — so there was bound to be pretty quick improvement from Day 1 until now,” Patriots QBs coach T.C. McCartney said Tuesday, via MassLive’s Mark Daniels. “From the footwork just to understanding what we’re trying to do with these calls.”

On Milton, McCartney added: “Similar to Drake, in college, they weren’t doing anything we were doing. He had a little exposure in Michigan early in his career to some of the things we were doing, but from footwork to just understanding how we’re going to call plays and why we’re calling those plays, I think he’s made great strides so far.”

MORE: How Patriots Rookie Joe Milton Is Handling ‘Humbling’ NFL Reality Check

Maye is just over a month into his Patriots career. So far, McCartney likes what he’s seen.

“Drake’s been awesome,” McCartney said. “He’s eager to learn. He’s been improving every day. You see it on the field, you see it in the meeting room. So, it’s been really good.”

How Patriots Changed Maye’s Usage in OTA Practice

In prior OTA practices open to reporters, Maye repped behind both Brissett and third-year pro Bailey Zappe. But Tuesday’s session saw a major shift, as Maye repped ahead of Zappe while finishing second to Brissett in overall reps during live team drills.

It was a notable shift in the Patriots’ QB battle, one Maye downplayed after practice.

“It’s a battle, me, Jacoby and Bailey. We’re battling,” said Maye, who threw two interceptions and was inconsistent throughout practice.

“Mixing up who goes with who each day. It’s not necessarily you’re going first, you’re going second. Jacoby’s getting first, and then from there, we’re just playing it by ear. Obviously, it matters when you’re in there.”

Maye’s promotion probably means more for Zappe than anyone else. With the Patriots looking to trim their QB room to three by training camp, Zappe could be the odd man out.

Prior OTAs indicated Zappe had a chance to enter the season as the top backup, but such a scenario appears less likely after Tuesday’s practice.

As for New England’s real QB competition, Maye still has a long way to go before supplanting Brissett.

Could Maye Start Week 1?

Don’t count on it.

Many experts believe Maye would be best served to sit for a few weeks, if not the entire season. Jordan Love and the Green Bay Packers offer fans the latest reminder that not all rookie quarterbacks are ready to play right away.

Plus, the Patriots signed Brissett to be their bridge starter. And Van Pelt went out of his way on Tuesday to reaffirm Brissett as the top QB in New England.

“I think you have to take it as it comes,” Van Pelt said when asked when Maye could replace Brissett. “I think it’ll be a combination of a couple of things when those decisions are made, and it’ll be made together as a group with Eliot (Wolf) and Coach (Jerod) Mayo. But there’s no timetable on when that time comes.

“And Jacoby, again, is our starter. He’s played excellent for us in the spring, and Drake is coming on. So until that changes, we’re going to stick with that.”

Mayo offered a mostly boilerplate answer when asked about Maye.

“He’s doing well,” Mayo said. “He’s headed in the right direction. A lot of times, people think it’s this longitudinal, just straight line up to the top, and realistically, it’s up and down, up and down, up and down. But hopefully, you end up still … going in the right direction. So, he’s doing well.”

Unless something goes horribly wrong, a time will come when Maye plays ahead of Brissett. For now, though, the potential face of the franchise is an ascending backup.

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