Rookie Marte Mapu already ‘looks comfortable’ at LB and safety


Mapu stood out during Friday’s OTA session with an interception and a pass breakup.

Marte Mapu and Bill Belichick. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Marte Mapu beat Matt Sokol to the spot and snatched the ball, intercepting a short pass from backup quarterback Bailey Zappe.

It was just one of the plays the third-round pick from Sacramento State made during OTAs Friday as he flexed his versatility. Mapu also broke up a pass intended for newly-signed receiver Ed Lee.

Defensive back Adrian Phillips says he’s seen consistent growth from the rookie so far.

“He’s doing really good,” Phillips said. “He’s just a guy that wants to learn. When you talk about rookies, and guys coming in that’s the main thing you want to see. He’s going to ask any of the questions because he’s one of the guys that doesn’t want to get it wrong, but is not afraid to get wrong. He wants to learn and get better every day.”

Mapu was drafted as a linebacker but also spent time lining up at safety on Friday. He’s seemed comfortable at multiple spots in the Patriots’ defense, Phillips said.

“I think it goes into the evolution of the game when you talk about guys being able to play multiple positions … seeing him out there on the field, it all looks comfortable for him. It looks like stuff that he’s seen before,” said Phillips.

Linebacker Jahlani Tavai said he’s familiar with Mapu through time spent playing another sport, rugby.

“Mapu is a great kid,” Tavai said. “I actually grew up playing rugby with him in LA, so I knew his background as soon as he got here. He’s doing his thing. I’m happy that he’s part of the team and I’m ready to see what he brings to the table.”

Despite the fact that the 6-foot-3-inch, 221-pound Mapu is a bit lighter than a typical linebacker, NFL Media’s Daniel Jeremiah said Mapu was his “favorite player” in the entire 2023 draft class.

“He is so fluid and instinctive and just makes plays,” Jeremiah said during NFL Network’s draft coverage. “He’s what the modern linebacker looks like in the NFL right now … He can run, cover and blitz. Everything you want in a linebacker right now.”

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