By necessity and merit, the New England Patriots‘ quarterback situation is crystallizing for Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions at Gillette Stadium.
The Patriots’ man of the moment is rookie quarterback Bailey Michael Zappe, a fourth-round draft pick who set passing records at Western Kentucky after the Victoria, Texas native transferred from Houston Baptist.
“Bailey is definitely ready to go,” a league source said. “He’s worked hard for everything he’s got and none of this is too big for him. He got thrown in there last week and he didn’t look out of place at all.”
What’s Going on With Mac Jones and the Patriots’ Quarterback Situation?
Patriots starting quarterback Mac Jones, recovering from a high-ankle sprain and still limping at practice in limited duty Wednesday, is not considered close to ready. Further, it’s regarded as illogical and perhaps even a bit unsafe because of his lack of mobility for him to attempt to play Sunday against Lions defensive ends Aidan Hutchinson and Charles Harris.
Jones is improving, per a source, and is making his case to the coaching staff and team medical staff that he can return Sunday. However, Week 6 is regarded as a more logical possibility as long as he doesn’t suffer any setbacks. But should he play against the Lions, Jones isn’t expected to be able to elude pass rushers.
Plus, backup quarterback Brian Hoyer remains in the concussion protocol. While his symptoms are improving, per a source, he’s not expected to be cleared by Sunday, especially with all of the increased scrutiny involving concussions after the simmering controversy involving Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
Meanwhile, Zappe was thrust into action last week against the Green Bay Packers during a loss after Hoyer suffered a concussion in the first half. Hoyer had replaced Jones, who suffered an ankle injury that prompted him to hop off the field, unable to put any weight on his foot.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick was noncommittal, of course, on his plans under center heading into their matchup vs. the Lions. The Patriots have also signed quarterback Garrett Gilbert to their practice squad.
“He had the whole week for preparation last week,” Belichick said. “In terms of preparation, like snaps, we’ll see. We’ll see how it goes.”
Zappe is taking the first-team offensive snaps and asking a lot of questions with input from Jones.
“He’s been very helpful,” Zappe told New England reporters. “Same for me, I’ve been doing everything I can to try and help him out with everything going on. We’re just trying to be the best for the team.”
Adapting to a Pro-Style Approach
Zappe passed for one touchdown with no interceptions against the Packers as he completed 10 of 15 passes for 99 yards and a 107.4 passer rating. He lobbed a 25-yard touchdown to wide receiver DeVante Parker off play-action. Zappe went 3 for 4 for 62 yards throwing from under center. He looked calm, poised, and accurate, displaying a nice touch on his throws.
The Most Valuable Player in Conference USA last year, Zappe passed for 5,545 yards and 56 touchdowns in his final college season while operating primarily out of the shotgun formation. Now, he’s adapting to dropping back more in the pocket.
“A lot more comfortable than I was about a year ago,” Zappe said. “That goes a lot working with my teammates, working with the coaches. Continuing to work with the comfortability with it. Just continuing to get reps before and after practice.”
Excelling in the Boca Raton Bowl, he finished with 5,967 yards and 62 touchdowns overall to set the FBS records for passing yards and touchdowns in a single season.
He cemented his rising draft stock with a strong performance in the Senior Bowl playing for Lions head coach Dan Campbell, who said that Zappe exhibited the same kind of poise in Mobile that he did coming off the bench last week for the Patriots.
“Highly intelligent,” Campell told Detroit reporters when asked about Zappe. “He picked up the offense very quickly. Very composed. Just had a good command of the huddle. Teammates respected him. You could tell they listened to him. And he kind of plays that way.
“I thought they did a good job with him of just trying to get him settled in and being smart and not putting him in a bind, continue to run the football, do things to get the ball out, and then a little play-action.”