Patriots QB Battle: New England Makes Notable Drake Maye Change in Latest OTA Practice

The New England Patriots' latest OTA practice saw a notable change involving quarterbacks Drake Maye, Jacoby Brissett, and Bailey Zappe.

FOXBORO, Mass. — Tuesday’s New England Patriots OTA practice was a relatively uneventful affair. Most team drills were conducted near the goal line, and the defense overwhelmed the offense throughout. Key veterans, like Matthew Judon, continued exercising their right to skip the voluntary sessions.

But the quarterback situation? There was some meat on that bone.

The practice, which will be the final OTA session open to reporters, saw a notable change involving rookie quarterback Drake Maye. Let’s get into what the shift could mean for Maye, Jacoby Brissett, Bailey Zappe, and the Patriots as a whole.

Patriots Change Drake Maye’s Practice Reps

(Note: You can click here for our full breakdown of Tuesday’s practice.)

In prior practices open to reporters, Maye repped behind both Brissett and Zappe during live team drills. Occasionally, the Patriots would go Brissett-Zappe-Brissett before having Maye run the offense.

But Maye repped ahead of Zappe on Tuesday, ultimately finishing with the second-most reps in team drills. Fellow rookie Joe Milton was a distant fourth.

Maye acknowledged New England’s QB “battle” while speaking with reporters 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.”

So, is this a big deal? It’s hard to say. For all we know, Maye has repped ahead of Zappe during practices closed to reporters. Plus, Maye is the No. 3 pick in the draft; he was bound to leapfrog Zappe at some point. The real stunner would be if he starts repping ahead of Brissett.

However, Tuesday’s shift makes it fair to wonder what the future could hold for Zappe.

What Does This Mean for Bailey Zappe?

Patriots head coach Jerod Mayo recently told Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer that he wants to narrow the QB room to three before training camp.

Brissett and Maye are locks. And the Patriots likely want to keep Milton around after drafting him in the sixth round. So, where does that leave Zappe?

Zappe made six starts, winning two, while replacing a left-for-dead Mac Jones last season. He wasn’t great, but he was functional, and his teammates clearly rallied around him.

Furthermore, Zappe’s usage in prior OTA practices potentially indicated the Patriots would consider entering the season with him as the top backup behind Brissett. If the Patriots prefer to sit Maye for at least half the season, they’d need to roster a QB competent enough to replace Brissett in the event of an injury. Sorry, Milton.

But it was hard to watch Tuesday’s practice and not think that Zappe’s days with the Patriots are numbered. His physical limitations remain glaring, and he has no future in New England.

That said, let’s see what happens next Monday when mandatory minicamp starts. If Maye still reps ahead of Zappe, the writing will be on the wall. But if Zappe reclaims the No. 2 spot, it might be a sign that he’ll stick around longer than expected.

How Do Patriots Coaches Feel About Drake Maye?

Patriots offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt praised Maye before the start of Tuesday’s practice.

“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 noted Maye’s improved 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.”

Van Pelt was asked whether the Patriots have a timeline for when Maye could claim the starting job. He used it as an opportunity to reaffirm Brissett as the top QB.

“I think you have to take it as it comes,” Van Pelt said. “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 and Coach 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.”

Maye also was asked for his thoughts on Maye’s development.

“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.”

Ultimately, the most likely scenario is Brissett beginning the season as the Patriots’ starting QB, with Maye sitting for a large chunk of the season, if not the entire campaign. Still, Tuesday’s practice saw the clearing of an early checkpoint for a player whom the Patriots believe is the future of the franchise.

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