How Drake Maye can win the Patriots’ QB job by Week 1

Must Read

The short answer is he beats the man in front of him.

Drake Maye will win the Patriots’ starting quarterback job if he out-performs Jacoby Brissett over training camp and the preseason.

Brissett is the bar to clear, a journeyman good enough to start games for four franchises, but bad enough to be playing for his fifth team in as many years. The Patriots viewed Brissett as a potential starter when they signed him in free agency. He is a well-respected veteran the team believes can both mentor a young rookie and win games, despite their lack of weaponry and proven pass protectors.

Despite these circumstances, some at team headquarters believe Maye could win the job outright. Maye’s path to playing time will run parallel to Brissett’s; a two-man race where the gun goes off this spring and both quarterbacks sprint through the summer heat.

There is a blueprint for Maye to pull ahead of Brissett and start the season opener. Three years ago, well before his career fell apart in New England, Mac Jones beat out Cam Newton with a performance that clearly established he was the best passer in camp. If history repeats itself, Maye will have established himself in a few key areas.

Allow Devin McCourty and James White, former captains who witnessed Jones’ rookie rise that year, to explain.

Playbook mastery

On your marks, get set, study.

Before Maye can win on the field, he has to triumph in the classroom. He must master the Patriots’ new pass concepts, reads and protections, their run plays and route adjustments, and demonstrate all of this understanding in practice and games. Maye’s grasp of the playbook need not be perfect, but it should be close.

Because talent alone can’t foster the trust a rookie quarterback needs to win over teammates and coaches. Only knowing where to be and what to do, snap after snap after snap, can do that.

“You can throw the ball 80 yards and make every possible throw, but if you don’t know when to make the throw or how to read the coverage, who cares?” White said. “The mental part of the quarterback position is more important than anything.”

NFL notes: The Patriots’ rebuild about to enter its next phase

Jones proved this in 2021, particularly during joint practices against the Eagles and Giants. He shredded New York’s starting defense during the first day of back-to-back practices, calling audibles and beating exotic blitz pressure with his quick release. According to McCourty, it will take a similar scene for Maye to win the job.

“If he’s out there and he’s doing all the (offensive) line calls and he’s comfortable and able to make throws and able to read coverage,” McCourty said. “that’s what it will look like.”

Problem-solving against pressure

Avoiding pressure is likely to be a regular part of playing quarterback for the Patriots next season.

If the kid can’t handle the heat, sit him. That, among other reasons, is why many argue Brissett should start. Let him take the hits, while Maye develops risk-free.

But there is a world in which the Patriots’ average offensive line out-performs expectations this summer, and Maye does, too.

At North Carolina, he showed flashes of identifying blitzes pre-snap and adjusting to beat that pressure. Overall, Maye killed the blitz in college, and destroyed certain opponents with his legs. However, there’s a careful balance to beating pressure in the NFL.

Not every answer can involve scrambling or extending plays outside of structure. Sometimes, a quarterback must stand in, find his hot read and take a hit. Or throw the ball away.

More often than not, beating the blitz requires calm and command in the pocket. McCourty cited ex-Jets quarterback Zach Wilson as a cautionary example of a young, athletic quarterback who too often tried to beat pressure by going outside of the offense, the pocket and himself.

Source: Patriots begin process in search for de facto general manager

“How many times was (Wilson) just trying to make plays that he was able to make in college?” McCourty asked. “Drake Maye was able to (extend) at UNC. But I don’t care who you bring in — he’s probably not going to be able do that in the NFL.”

If Maye stands tall and unflinching against pressure this summer, while using all outlets at his disposal, that will be as sure a sign as any he’s ready.

Taking checkdowns

One of the first signs of Jones’ readiness in 2021 was his increased aggression downfield. Slowly but surely, he ditched his Checkdown Charlie style and attacked the intermediate and deep parts of the field; evidence of growing confidence in his arm, his teammates and the offense.

For Maye, the inverse will hold true.

In college, Maye hunted explosive plays relentlessly. He eschewed shorter completions for home-run deep balls and succeeded often enough to keep swinging for the fences, even at the expense of a few singles. That mentality, plus his immense arm strength, inspired comparisons to Josh Allen during the pre-draft process.

Allen came to dominate the Patriots because he started resisting the call of deep, dangerous throws and took checkdowns. McCourty remembers foiling Allen in his first couple seasons by ignoring Bills receivers running underneath routes, knowing Allen didn’t want to settle for a short, boring completion.

Inside Patriots’ decision to draft Drake Maye as future franchise QB

“We would watch clips where (Allen) would buy time and just wouldn’t throw it to the back who would be wide open in the flat,” he said.

Eventually, Allen’s patience developed, and an elite quarterback was unlocked. Over the last four years, he went 7-2 versus Bill Belichick’s defense and now owns the highest passer rating of any quarterback to make five-plus starts or attempt at least 200 passes versus Belichick. If Maye’s college tape is indicative of how he’ll attack NFL defenses, he must also learn to play the waiting game.

The good news: White believes patience can be taught.

“I think he can learn it,” White said. “It’s not something that you have to know completely right away. I think that’s a part of coaching and developing players.”

Fixing his feet

By now you’ve heard about the flaw in Maye’s game: his feet are a mess.

Latest News

Horoscope Today: Astrological prediction for June 24, 2024

All zodiac signs have their own characteristics and traits which define someone’s personality. Wouldn’t it be helpful...

More Articles Like This