Patriots’ Jerod Mayo Issues Stern Warning to Veterans on ‘Young Bulls’

Patriots coach Jerod Mayo

Getty Patriots coach Jerod Mayo

While the youth movement sweeping the New England Patriots has its limitations, it has obviously had an impact already on the quarterback position, where Drake Maye is in the wings, eventually in line to take over the team’s starting job. He is the No. 3 overall pick, after all. But it has already had an obvious impact in the wide-receiver room, which had grown stale and uninspiring in recent years.

The drafting of Ja’Lynn Polk from Washington in the second round and Javon Baker in the fourth round have made it clear that the Patriots wanted an infusion of youth in the unit. Assuming those two will earn their spots, coach Jerod Mayo can read the writing on the wall. And that writing should come as a warning to the team’s veterans: You’re on the cutting block.

“It’s a wide-open competition,” Mayo said this week at the team’s OTAs. “We have some young bulls, we have some older players. We have guys who are really unproven. So, this is an opportunity for them to really get a leg up going forward, especially when you don’t have a guy like [Kendrick] Bourne out here during the spring. Guys will have opportunities.”

Patriots WR Room Is a Bit Crowded

The opportunities are there for Baker and Polk to establish a rapport with Maye in hopes of laying the groundwork for a fruitful future relationship. Even if veteran Jacoby Brissett wins the job out of training camp, the hope is that either Baker or Polk—or hopefully both—becomes a favored target of Maye going forward.

The Patriots have two veterans they signed in free agency, bringing back Kendrick Bourne this offseason and adding K.J. Osborn from the Vikings. The Patriots did not sign those players to cut them, though as Mayo referenced, Bourne might be slowed early on by recovery from an ACL injury he suffered in October.

That’s four receiver spots in use. The Patriots have last year’s speedy rookie sensation and leading receiver, Pop Douglas, on hand, too. It would be a shock if he somehow lost his roster spot.

The warning, then, is for third-year man Tyquan Thornton and last year’s free-agent signee, JuJu Smith-Schuster, who admitted this week that he was not healthy last season with a knee injury suffered in the previous playoffs, and was only “60%” at this time in 2023.

Thornton and Smith-Schuster suited up for only 20 games between them and made a total of 42 catches. Unless there are signs of a big year coming this summer, one or both could be cut.

Rookie Javon Baker Raised Eyebrows With Trash Talk

As for the rookies, they’re getting their first chance to show their wares. Each has ramped up some excitement, but perhaps no player got Patriots’ fans juices flowing more in the last few weeks than Baker, whose brash post-draft press conference drew national attention.

The Patriots do not, typically, talk a lot of trash. Baker’s swagger is welcome. But he’ll need to back it up.

He described his approach with a warning for NFL d-backs: “It’s just kill whoever on the other side of me.”

As for what to expect from him, Baker said, “Just come to y’all stadium and bring your popcorn. That’s all I can tell y’all. Bring your popcorn. I make people in wheelchairs stand up. Bring your popcorn.”

Consider the Patriots veterans on notice.

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