• Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff WriterMay 19, 2024, 06:00 AM ET


      Mike Reiss is an NFL reporter at ESPN and covers the New England Patriots. Reiss has covered the Patriots since 1997 and joined ESPN in 2009. In 2019, he was named Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sports Media Association. You can follow Reiss on Twitter at @MikeReiss.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:

1. Mayo’s big call: When NFL executive vice president of media distribution Hans Schroeder analyzed the league’s 2024 schedule in a conference call with reporters last week, he noted the top three picks in the NFL draft being showcased.

“Some of the new faces — Caleb Williams, Jayden Daniels, Drake Maye — you’ll see them in the first few weeks of the season as you look at the schedule with appearances for Chicago, Washington and New England all in national windows,” Schroeder said. “It’s one of the benefits of having moved the schedule release to after the draft.”

Schroeder’s remarks highlight how the NFL is always anxious to promote its next generation of hopeful stars. Williams and the Bears visit the Texans on Sunday night in Week 2, Maye and the Patriots travel to face the Jets on Thursday night in Week 3, and Daniels and the Commanders visit the Bengals on Monday night in Week 3.

This assumes, of course, that Maye is playing at all.

First-year Patriots head coach Jerod Mayo has been clear about his quarterback plans: He subscribes to Bill Belichick’s philosophy that not many rookies are ready to play immediately, saying it will be an open competition with veteran Jacoby Brissett (48 career starts), Maye, 2022 fourth-round pick Bailey Zappe and 2024 sixth-rounder Joe Milton III to determine the best signal-caller.

Specific to Maye, he said the night the Patriots drafted him: “They try to put timetables on it, but you just never know when that time is going to be.”

The Bears already determined that the time is now for Williams, having named him the Day 1 starter. Many project the Commanders will ultimately do the same with the 23-year-old Daniels, in part because he is well-seasoned entering the NFL with 55 career starts in college. Meanwhile, the 21-year-old Maye started 26 games at North Carolina and thus some believe he will benefit from watching behind Brissett, while others — such as ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Tim Hasselbeck — subscribe to the philosophy that the best way for a quarterback to learn is to play.

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Mayo’s decision of when to insert Maye into the lineup, which is the primary intrigue surrounding a team that otherwise had no prime-time appeal to the league, will be among the most important of his young coaching career.

The hope that Maye provides the Patriots has similarities to 1993 when quarterback Drew Bledsoe — who like Maye was among the youngest prospects at the position that year — was selected No. 1 overall in the NFL draft. Then coach Bill Parcells notably said at the time: “I promise you I will not throw him to the wolves.”

Bledsoe, of course, was thrown to the wolves. The team went 5-11, but in winning the final four games showed an arc of improvement to indicate better days were ahead for the franchise. The Patriots went 10-6 the following year and played in the Super Bowl in the 1996 season.

Bledsoe, in an interview with ESPN.com, was asked if he sees a link between those days and the current Patriots setup.

“It’s different in that the Patriots never really had a ton of success [when I got there]. They went to the one Super Bowl [in 1985]but other than that had not been consistently relevant. Whereas it wasn’t that long ago that they were running the world, so there still is a lingering level of expectation that exists from all that success. That part is a little bit different. But shoot, they earned the right to pick where they picked; it wasn’t much to look at last year, that’s for sure,” he said.

“You have the new coaching staff and new rookie quarterback coming in, so there are also some obvious parallels for sure. I don’t think it’s crazy at all. Now it will be super interesting to see where it goes from here, whether they can rebuild that championship culture and start to rise again.”

Bledsoe said offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt, who was his backup with the Bills in 2002 and 2003, will be a key asset for Maye because of his “football knowledge and demeanor.”

As for his advice for Maye, Bledsoe said: “He’s going to have to have thick skin and be patient. It’s not going to happen immediately. He’s going to have to be very mentally and emotionally tough to get through some of the hard times — if they even start him right away. You have Jacoby there; they’re not in a situation where they have to throw him on the field right away. So I’ll be curious to see what they do.”

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2. Brady calling NE: The Patriots currently have six of their games scheduled to air on Fox, which sparks a question: Could Tom Brady, in his debut season as the network’s No. 1 analyst, be calling any of them?

The Fox games are Sept. 15 vs. the Seahawks (1 p.m. ET), Sept. 29 at the 49ers (4:05 p.m. ET), Oct. 6 vs. the Dolphins (1 p.m. ET), Nov. 3 at the Titans (1 p.m. ET), Nov. 10 at the Bears (1 p.m. ET) and Nov. 17 vs. the Rams (1 p.m. ET).

Brady will always be assigned to Fox’s top game in the national window, which given the Patriots’ lower-profile status makes it less likely he’ll have a heavy slate of New England games (if any at all).

At an initial glance, the Patriots-Bears game (possibly Williams vs. Maye) might have the best chance to land, as CBS has the doubleheader that week with Eagles-Cowboys at 4:25 p.m. ET.

3. Judon next? Newly appointed Patriots executive vice president of player personnel Eliot Wolf has been checking off items on his contractual “to-do” list, most recently extending starting center and team leader David Andrews’ deal.

So perhaps the most significant item remaining is with veteran outside linebacker Matthew Judon, who is scheduled to earn a base salary of $6.5 million in the final year of his contract. That is well under the market for a player of his caliber, and it’s hard to imagine Judon agreeing to play under those terms. At the same time, Judon’s return from a torn biceps that limited him to four games last season, coupled with his age (32 in August), add layers of note in any negotiation.

4. New phase: The Patriots are set to hold three voluntary organized team activities this week, which marks their move into Phase 3 of the offseason program. Media members are scheduled to be present for the first OTA on Monday. Brissett, who was complimentary of Maye, is expected to get the initial repetitions at quarterback. https://x.com/MikeReiss/status/1791165872783990901

Of the QB dynamic, Brissett said: “The good part about our room is that everyone wants to be the guy, and everyone is competing to be the guy. That’s what you want. If none of us wanted to play, that would be messed up; we’d be in bad hands in this organization.”

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5. Maye’s business trip: Maye was one of 40 rookies who attended the NFL Players Association’s rookie premiere in Los Angeles from May 15-19, joining receiver Ja’Lynn Polk (second round) and Milton (sixth round). The purpose of the annual event is to educate players on the business side of the game and help them expand on their existing endorsements. Pro Football Hall of Famer Kurt Warner addressed the rookies, who also donned their game jerseys for the first time.

6. Mayo’s approach: Mayo is the seventh head coach that Brissett has played under, joining Belichick, Chuck Pagano, Frank Reich, Brian Flores, Kevin Stefanski and Ron Rivera. Brissett’s initial impression of Mayo’s coaching approach has been favorable.

“He brings a lot of good energy,” he said. “The cool thing is you can tell he’s trying to make the players on the team run the team. Obviously, he’s the head coach and he sets the standard, but he definitely puts a lot of responsibility on us players. I like it.”

7. Late bye: NFL vice president of broadcast planning Mike North explained last week how more NFL teams aren’t requesting a bye the week after playing international games, which explains, in part, why the Patriots’ bye week comes Dec. 8 instead of Oct. 27. It’s the latest bye possible for New England, which plays Jacksonville at London’s Wembley Stadium on Oct. 20.

Of the seven decisions when factoring in that the Jaguars play back-to-back international games, four teams (Vikings, Bears, Giants, Panthers) requested their bye the week upon their return to the United States, while three didn’t (Jets, Jaguars, Patriots).

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8. They said it: “I feel like I put on a lot of muscle in a lot of areas that needed [it]; just so I could take more impact. I feel like all my injuries came from me hitting the ground, so I’ll be able to bounce back up when I do hit the ground.” — third year Patriots receiver Tyquan Thornton, who has opened his first two seasons on injured reserve (fractured clavicle and shoulder).

9. Bill Walsh fellows: The Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship has helped college coaches gain exposure to NFL training camp and offseason workout programs for more than 30 years, and the Patriots are welcoming Purdue’s T.J. McCollum and former Browns running back/South Carolina assistant Montario Hardesty this offseason as part of the program. McCollum already has a connection with one member of the organization, as he played alongside linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley at Purdue in 2017.

10. Did You Know: The Patriots are one of 12 teams this season who aren’t scheduled to face an opponent that is coming off its bye week. They are the only team in the NFL to have no weeks on the schedule in which they have less rest than the opposing team.

2024-05-19 10:01:57
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