32 NFL Teams in 32 Days: It’s All About Jerod Mayo and Drake Maye in New England

The Patriots’ coach and quarterback could have a tough road ahead with roster concerns on the offensive line and the skill positions.
Maye could have an uphill battle as a rookie quarterback with roster concerns at the skill positions.
Maye could have an uphill battle as a rookie quarterback with roster concerns at the skill positions. / Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports
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Welcome to 32 teams in 32 days. To get us through the offseason, we’ll be taking a closer look at every team in the NFL, in order of projected 2024 win totals. Up next: the Patriots.

After going from two decades of excellence to winning only four games last season, Patriots owner Robert Kraft fired Bill Belichick and turned to Jerod Mayo to begin a new era with rookie quarterback Drake Maye

But the New England Patriots don’t plan on handing the starting job to the No. 3 pick in the draft. Instead, they’re going to make Maye earn it by competing against veteran Jacoby Brissett in training camp.

Whether it’s Maye or Brissett, the Patriots’ offense could have an uphill battle with roster concerns at the skill positions and on the offensive line. The Patriots re-signed versatile offensive lineman Mike Onwenu, but have plenty of inexperience and it doesn’t help that Cole Strange might not be ready for the start of the season because of injury. 

The Patriots are going to need to decide whether it’s worth it to trot out Maye with a poor supporting cast. But there might be a 2023 sixth-round pick who could make life easier for him. 

The Patriots’ defense, on the other hand, has the makings of turning into a top-10 unit under the guidance of Mayo, who has coached on that side of the ball in New England for the past five seasons. They have a strong core group, with defensive tackle Christian Barmore, edge rusher Matthew Judon, cornerback Christian Gonzalez and safety Kyle Dugger. If the defense dominates, the Patriots will surprise the football public and win more than four games this season.  

Biggest gamble this offseason: Firing Belichick, hiring Mayo

New England Patriots coach Jerod Mayo
Mayo replaced Belichick after joining his staff in 2019. / Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

It’s no secret that Kraft and Belichick had somewhat of a rocky relationship in the lead up to Kraft firing the legendary head coach in January. It was a delicate situation for Kraft, and maybe one that wasn’t handled properly on either side. But Kraft at least had a succession plan, one that he kept intact whenever Mayo had coaching opportunities elsewhere. Kraft has had high expectations for Mayo since he joined Belichick’s coaching staff in 2019. Now the team owner will find out whether he made the right decision by promoting Mayo to head coach without interviewing other candidates, which is a gamble in itself. That’s a lot of pressure for Mayo, especially with a roster that might not be ready to push for the postseason for another year or two.  

Toughest stretch of the season: Weeks 1 to 6

The Patriots are currently underdogs in every game this season, according to odds at DraftKings Sportsbook. But it might not get tougher than the first six weeks of the season. New England starts on the road against the Cincinnati Bengals, followed by a home game against the Seattle Seahawks before going back on the road for back-to-back games against Aaron Rodgers’s New York Jets and the defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers. They then return home to host the Miami Dolphins and Houston Texans. And it doesn’t get easier from there with the Jacksonville Jaguars in London for Week 7.

Breakout player to watch: WR DeMario Douglas

New England Patriots wide receiver DeMario Douglas
Douglas was targeted 79 times and had 49 receptions for 561 yards, averaging 11.4 yards per catch in 2023. / Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots’ receiving corps is regarded as one of the weakest in the NFL, but football pundits might be overlooking what Douglas accomplished as a sixth-round rookie last season. After shining as a camp standout, Douglas stepped up late in the season for a Patriots’ offense desperately needing playmakers. Douglas was targeted 79 times and had 49 receptions for 561 yards, averaging 11.4 yards per catch. Douglas might not be a true No. 1 wideout yet, but he definitely proved himself as a starter in 2023. The Liberty product could be set for a memorable second season if the Patriots get decent quarterback play in ’24.

Best-case scenario: Maye wins Offensive Rookie of the Year

Proving the doubters wrong with a final record of .500 or better would be a monumental achievement for Mayo in his first season. But for the Patriots to return to being a perennial winner, they’re going to need Maye to find his footing quickly and show flashes of being a legitimate franchise quarterback. He doesn’t have to play as well as C.J. Stroud did last season, but if he passes the eye test and routinely displays an elite skill set resembling Josh Allen or Justin Herbert, then that should be enough to bring back excitement for the Patriots’ fan base. But first, Maye will need to beat out Brissett for the starting job in training camp. 

Worst-case scenario: Patriots go back and forth with Maye, Brissett 

If the Patriots are rotating quarterbacks again, which they did with Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe the past few seasons, that would probably be an indicator that Maye wasn’t ready to start and the team is enduring another rough season. It will be up to Mayo on when to start Maye, a situation that could become difficult if he decides to go with Brissett in the season opener. In this scenario, Mayo would face public pressure and nonstop questions from the media on when he plans to start Maye, especially if the team has a rough start. Ideally, the Patriots would like Maye to make the decision easy, but if he’s not ready to play, maybe sitting him for a year—like Patrick Mahomes and Jordan Love—could be a better option than rotating quarterbacks.   

Head coach-quarterback tandem ranking

No. 32: Jerod Mayo (31) and Drake Maye (30)

The Patriots are starting anew with Mayo and Maye, hoping the duo finds even a modicum of success compared to Bill Belichick and Tom Brady’s 20-year run. For New England, 2024 will be great if Mayo and Maye look like keepers, regardless of the win-loss record. —Matt Verderame

Sleeper fantasy pick: Drake Maye

The third pick in the draft, Maye comes with high expectations after two consecutive strong seasons at North Carolina. While Jayden Daniels is the name that comes to mind when we think of a running quarterback among the rookies, Maye gained more than 1,100 yards and had 16 rushing scores in his past two collegiate seasons.  Most rookie quarterbacks who make an impact can do so with their legs, so Maye fits the bill. —Michael Fabiano

Best bet: Patriots under 4.5 wins (+135) at DraftKings

I like this plus-money option for the team with the second-hardest schedule 

in the NFL. Defensive holes, a mediocre offensive line, questions at quarterback, a receiving corps featuring Kendrick Bourne, Hunter Henry, and rookie wideouts Ja’Lynn Polk and Javon Baker, and a new coach all point to value on the under. —Jen Piacenti

Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.

If you or someone you know has a gambling problem and wants help, call 1-800-GAMBLER.


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Gilberto Manzano

GILBERTO MANZANO