If the Bailey Zappe era of New England Patriots football officially kicks off Sunday, the Patriots will be turning to a past record-breaker at the collegiate level to reignite the offense moving forward. Here’s a look back at Zappe’s collegiate career.
Bailey Zappe Shattered 2 Records — Including Mark Held by Joe Burrow
Zappe became a 3,000- and 5,000-yard passer at both the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) and Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) levels.
His NCAA Division I trek began at Houston Baptist University. He squeezed in 10 games in his first season of 2017, ending with 1,548 yards and five touchdowns. Zappe’s numbers rose the next two seasons for HBU — throwing for 2,812 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2018, then hitting 3,811 yards and 35 touchdowns in his third season.
In the truncated 2020-21 campaign, Zappe settled for 1,833 yards and 15 aerial scores in just four games. But his numbers skyrocketed when he made the transition to the higher level by landing at Western Kentucky — which includes taking down two FBS records.
On this three-yard touchdown against Appalachian State in the Boca Raton Bowl, Zappe threw his 62nd TD pass — breaking the previous mark of 61 held by Joe Burrow at LSU.
Bailey Zappe > everyone pic.twitter.com/eQJBuCL3Pc
— Joe Broback (@joebroback) December 18, 2021
That wasn’t the only record that fell courtesy of Zappe’s arm. He ended up shredding defenses with 5,987 passing yards, which beat out B.J. Symons’ mark of 5,833 yards with Texas Tech back in 2003.
And, by hitting past 5,000, Zappe joined a collegiate club that featured names like future Pro Bowler Derek Carr, NFL journeyman and past NFC runner-up Case Keenum and future two-time Super Bowl winner Patrick Mahomes.
Can Zappe Turn Around Patriots’ Offensive Woes?
The Pats need any kind of offensive boost right now. New England’s offense is currently 25th in total yards and 23rd in passing yardage. Worse, the Pats have thrown just 10 touchdown passes…placing them at 26th in the league.
It appears the Mac Jones experiment has run its course in Foxborough. Jones simply struggled to gain any kind of footing running Bill O’Brien’s timing-based offense, which relies on more short to intermediate throws instead of attacking vertically.
The kicker is Jones was in a similar offense when he was at Alabama, and O’Brien came back to New England from Tuscaloosa. But in looking back at the offense Zappe ran at WKU, he’s capable of becoming a fit for O’Brien’s system moving forward.
With the Hilltoppers, Zappe was seen attacking the first open space and firing the football in less than three seconds. Most of his passes were in the short to intermediate variety. He’s got quick eyes in locating the first open target instead of locking in on one guy. His quick release became his biggest trait and why he was drafted.
But, as identified by College Football Network’s Oliver Hodgkinson in his 2022 draft report, Zappe tended to have a looping, hanging deep ball that can easily get picked off. The deep approach lacked zip to his throws. With this in mind, the Patriots may have to restrain themselves from going deep early or throughout the game depending on the flow of the offense.
New England and O’Brien will have to get Zappe in a position where he can attack the short-distance throws right away to build his confidence up. That’ll include the plays where the Pats can attack the middle with their wideouts and get behind the Los Angeles Chargers’ linebackers on passing situations.
Jones showed an inability to get the ball out quickly on a consistent basis. The Pats will have to trust Zappe to do so, however, as he did when he was shattering NCAA records. Nevertheless, the Chargers game is Zappe’s latest opportunity to prove he’s got a future in the league.
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