With his Patriots career about to begin, Drake Maye has a clear objective: Improve his footwork - The Boston Globe (2024)

“So he’s the first one to be overly critical of himself. And that’s something that he always does.”

Maye’s Patriots career officially begins this weekend when he hits the practice field for the first time at the team’s rookie minicamp. And of the 8,000 things Maye needs to learn this summer — the playbook, the protections, new receivers, NFL defenses, where to live, the best lobster roll — improving his footwork is at the top of the list.

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Maye’s footwork probably was the reason he was the third quarterback drafted last month after Caleb Williams and Jayden Daniels. ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky called Maye’s footwork “sloppy” and worried that he will struggle if he has to play too soon in his rookie year. The Athletic draft analyst Dane Brugler said Maye needs to correct bad habits like “excessive bouncing on his feet or fading away from throws.”

Bill Belichick said while breaking down Maye’s highlights on the Pat McAfee draft show that “his footwork needs a lot of work. You can see here he’s just all over the place — never resets his feet, never really gets in position to throw, gets strip-sacked. Too much hopping around. Step up and throw.”

Related: A behind-the-scenes look at why the Patriots stuck at No. 3 and selected Drake Maye


Improving Maye’s footwork was one reason North Carolina hired Chip Linsley last summer as offensive coordinator, to transition away from the backpedal drop to more three-step drops. Brown also hired two former NFL coaches to work with Maye — former Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens, who coached Baker Mayfield and Carson Palmer in the NFL, and longtime quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen, who coached Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck in Indianapolis and Tom Brady in Tampa Bay.

Christensen, 68, called Maye “a special kid.”

“The footwork’s a little bit rogue, but he’ll reel that in,” Christensen said. “I think that getting into the pro system, and just doing it full time without any other distractions, that you’ll see a big jump in his game, just in his footwork and some of the things people have been critical of, which probably I don’t agree with.”

Christensen couldn’t work directly with Maye last fall because of his role as an “analyst,” not an official member of the coaching staff. But since the season ended, Maye has done on-field work with Christensen, Linsley, and Kitchens in Chapel Hill, while also throwing with longtime NFL quarterback Philip Rivers in Alabama.

UNC’s offense mostly operated out of the shotgun, and Maye’s coaches are now getting him ready for the NFL.

“We’ll continue working on footwork, we’ll continue working on getting out from underneath center,” Christensen said. “And then I think slowly but surely, I think the next big thing for him will be protections. You’ve been in college where everything’s tempo, and you don’t have to adjust or manipulate the protections as much.”

Related: Drafting Drake Maye was the right decision by the Patriots. Now don't mess it up.


Christensen is also trying to teach Maye to throw more with his body.

“We’ve been working and talking a lot about, he uses his arm more than he does his body,” Christensen said. “We’ve always tried to incorporate that it really is a full-body sequence of events and starts from the ground up.

“And I think the more he learns that, the more consistently accurate he’s going to be and the more consistent the ball is going to come off his arm.”

In Foxborough, Maye will work with new Patriots offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt, a former NFL quarterback who has coached Aaron Rodgers, Joe Burrow, and Mayfield. Maye also will be coached by new quarterbacks coach T.C. McCartney, a former college quarterback and NFL quarterbacks coach, and senior assistant Ben McAdoo, who worked with Rodgers and Eli Manning.

Patriots de facto general manager Eliot Wolf said this week on Adam Schefter’s podcast that his coaches are going to use the same “quarterback school” method that they learned from Mike McCarthy when they were all with the Packers.

With his Patriots career about to begin, Drake Maye has a clear objective: Improve his footwork - The Boston Globe (1)

The Patriots acknowledge that Maye’s footwork needs improvement but believe the issues are correctable. If anyone offers proof it can be fixed, it’s Josh Allen, Maye’s favorite comp, who completed 53 percent of his passes as a rookie, followed by 59 percent and 69 percent his next two seasons.


“Talking through some of the development that he needed, some of the things [the coaches] thought they could tighten up or fix in some cases, and at the end of the day, we felt comfortable with those things and really betting on the talent and the kid,” said Wolf.

“Drake is a relentless worker from all the indications that we have, and he’s going to be able to overcome some of the things in the areas that he needs to improve.”

Maye’s UNC coaches believe he will be a sponge in New England, and pointed out how young he is compared with some other draft prospects. While Daniels, Bo Nix, and Michael Penix are 23-24 years old with five or six years of college experience, Maye is only 21 and played just two years at UNC. Plus, Maye lost his senior season of high school in 2020 to the pandemic.

“Just a puppy,” Brown said. “I mean, he’s got a lot of growth out there. I coached Troy Aikman, and he struggled as a rookie and won a Super Bowl. I’m great friends with Peyton Manning. And he struggled as a rookie and won a Super Bowl.

“You have to remember, he’s only played two years. So he is very, very different than the other kids.”

Ben Volin can be reached at ben.volin@globe.com.

With his Patriots career about to begin, Drake Maye has a clear objective: Improve his footwork - The Boston Globe (2024)


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