Bailey Zappe

Patriots To Start QB Mac Jones On Sunday

Despite his curious benching on Monday night, Mac Jones will be under center for the Patriots when they take the field on Sunday. According to ESPN’s Field Yates (via Twitter), the second-year pro will start this weekend against the Jets.

Jones took about 90 percent of the first-team reps at practice today, a solid indication that he’ll get the starting nod over starter Bailey Zappe. Earlier today, coach Bill Belichick continued to fan the flames when he refused to elaborate on the team’s quarterback position, noting that the Patriots would see “how it goes” at practice today (via Chad Graff and Jeff Howe of The Athletic). Apparently Jones showed enough to earn the starting nod on Sunday.

The 2021 first-round pick returned from a high ankle sprain to start Monday’s game, but he was benched after only one quarter in favor of his rookie teammate. Belichick has refused to attribute the benching to Jones’ performance, with the coach instead claiming it was always New England’s intent to play both QBs in their game against the Bears. Doug Kyed of Pro Football Focus provides some more insight, writing that Jones’ injury factored into the decision and the QB was aware of his limited role heading into Monday night. The team intended to get Jones back in the game but the score got out of hand, allowing Zappe to finish the contest. Kyed also expresses skepticism that the Patriots would roll with a platoon at the position.

Of course, even if Belichick and the Patriots are being sincere, this won’t stop pundits from speculating about the situation. Some have suggested that the Patriots could be preparing for a future without Jones, citing the QB’s alleged attitude and ego. However, Howe rejects that notion, and in a separate article, he writes that the organization “bungled” this ordeal with their franchise quarterback.

It’s been an ugly start to the 2022 campaign for Jones. Following a rookie campaign that saw him guide New England to the playoffs and earn a Pro Bowl nod, Jones has led the Patriots to a 1-3 record in four starts this year, completing 65 percent of his passes for 799 yards, two touchdowns, and six interceptions. For comparison’s sake, Zappe has completed 70.7 percent of his passes for 781 yards, five touchdowns, and three interceptions, with the Patriots going 2-0 in his two starts.

Mac Jones Expects To Return In Week 7

The Patriots have been without their starting quarterback for three games, but Mac Jones has progressed in his recovery from a high ankle sprain. He has improved to the point he expects to be available against the Bears on Monday, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com reports.

Jones did not practice in the week immediately after his injury but has gotten in six limited workouts since. The Patriots begin their run of pre-Week 7 workouts Thursday. Jones moving to a full practice will put Bill Belichick to a decision: start Jones at perhaps less than 100% or stick with Bailey Zappe, who is now 2-0 as the Pats’ first-stringer.

The expectation for a bit has been Jones would be cleared to play against the Bears in Week 7, Albert Breer of SI.com adds. Jones broke through as a rookie, helping the Patriots back to the playoffs and finishing the season with (by far) the best QBR figure among rookie passers. Playing in a new offense this season, Jones began his sophomore effort a bit off his rookie-year pace. With Zappe performing surprisingly well — considering his fourth-round status — Ben Volin of the Boston Globe believes the Pats do suddenly have a quarterback controversy.

While Zappe is coming off games in which he completed 81% of his passes (a 29-0 Patriots win over the Lions) and a 309-yard road performance (New England’s 38-15 win in Cleveland), those wins were against teams with the 32nd- and 30th-ranked defenses, respectively. Zappe set a Division I-FBS touchdown pass record during his one season at Western Kentucky, totaling 62 in a pass-crazed system, but has taken to the new Patriots system better than could be expected from a rookie chosen 137th overall.

Although Jones threw three interceptions during his most recent start — a Week 3 loss to the Ravens — and has five picks on the season, it would be surprising if the Pats did not turn back to their starter when he was ready. The expectation is the Pats will turn back to Jones, Breer adds, with Jeff Howe of the Athletic also offering (via Twitter) the team will give Jones the reins back when he is cleared. But Zappe has bought them some time to at least wait for their starter to fully recover.

Injury Notes: Allen, Colts, Dalton, Zappe

The Chargers have been without Keenan Allen since he suffered a hamstring injury during the team’s season opener. While he has yet to officially be ruled out for Monday night’s game against the Broncos, it appears his return will come no earlier than Week 7.

The 30-year-old said as much when speaking to NFL Network’s Bridget Condon. Allen was expected to be on the field by this point in the season after suffering the injury, but a setback pushed his recovery timeline into October. “I wouldn’t say it was going well,” Allen said of his first rehab attempt. “I think I pushed a little too fast. I wasn’t ready obviously and reaggravated it.”

Here are some other injury updates ahead of tomorrow’s action:

  • The Colts have had an extended rest period prior to Week 6 by virtue of playing on Thursday night last week. However, they will still be without running back Jonathan Taylor, as the team confirmed on Saturday. His absence against the Broncos placed a higher burden on backup Nyheim Hines, but he, in turn, left that contest with a concussion. Per the team’s injury report, Hines will also miss tomorrow’s game against the Jaguars as he recovers, leaving Indianapolis particularly thin at the position.
  • For the third consecutive week, the Saints will turn to quarterback Andy Dalton as their starter. Head coach Dennis Allen confirmed that the veteran will fill in for Jameis Winston, who is continuing to deal with back and ankle injuries. With him still sidelined, Dalton will face the Bengals, with whom he spent the first nine years of his career. While he will be eyeing his second New Orleans win against his old squad, he will be without his top receiving target; Michael Thomas has also been ruled out and will miss his third straight contest.
  • Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com adds that Winston will be active and in uniform (Twitter link). The Saints will only turn to him in the event of an injury to Dalton, but proceeding in this fashion means that the team does not have to promote a practice squad passer, which would then require a corresponding release. Indeed, the Saints waived QB Jake Luton on Saturday to help make room for their WR and DB needs (h/t Mike Triplett of NewOrleans.football on Twitter).
  • Sticking with the QB position, the Patriots are in store for a repeat of last week’s decisive win over the Lions. Rookie Bailey Zappe is expected to start once again, per Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network. He was thrust into the No. 1 role after Mac Jones‘ ankle sprain and Brian Hoyer‘s concussion. Jones has officially been listed as questionable, but it is unlikely that he will be able to suit up, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweets. The news is an encouraging step for the 2021 first-rounder regarding his recovery, though. Zappe and the Patriots will, on the other hand, be without receiver Nelson Agholor, who was ruled out on Saturday.

Patriots QB Brian Hoyer Out For Game With Head Injury

The Patriots were forced to turn to veteran backup quarterback Brian Hoyer with second-year starter Mac Jones out this week after injuring his ankle in the team’s loss to the Ravens. After suffering an injury in his first start since Week 4 of the 2020 season, though, Hoyer has been ruled out for the remainder of the game with a head injury. 

On just his second series as the starting quarterback, Hoyer took a hard hit on a sack from Packers linebacker Rashan Gary and left the game to be evaluated with a head injury. Hoyer had looked good in his limited time, completing five of his six pass attempts for 37 yards before getting knocked out of the game.

With Jones and Hoyer ruled out, New England was forced to turn to its fourth-round pick from this year’s draft, Bailey Zappe. The rookie out of Western Kentucky is truly the Patriots’ only option as even their emergency quarterback, wide receiver Jakobi Meyers, is out today with a knee injury.

The former Hilltopper faces the daunting task of beating the Packers in his first bit of NFL playing time. So far, Zappe has been up to the task becoming the first quarterback from the 2022 NFL Draft class to throw an NFL touchdown. Both Titans’ rookie quarterback Malik Willis and Steelers’ rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett were allotted playing time before Zappe, but it was Zappe who cashed in with his arm first (Pickett had two rushing touchdowns in today’s loss to the Jets).

Even if Zappe leads the Patriots to an upset victory over the Packers, he likely won’t be asked to man the starting job for long. Despite the apparent severity of Jones’ initial injury, Jones has refused to accept an extended absence, seeking a second opinion on his diagnosis and teasing fans not to count him out for this week’s game before being ruled out. Hoyer’s injury shouldn’t keep him out for very long either, unless it’s an especially severe head injury.

If they are forced to move forward with Zappe, the next few games could be manageable as they don’t face a single team currently over .500 until after their bye week. If Jones and Hoyer are out for multiple weeks, Zappe would be in line to start against the Lions next Sunday and the Browns the following week.

It also would not be a surprise to see New England sign a quarterback to their practice squad this week. The Patriots will need someone to back up Zappe with even Meyers on the injured list.

Patriots Believe QB Mac Jones Suffered High Ankle Sprain

On the final offensive play of the Patriots’ loss today to the Ravens, quarterback Mac Jones suffered an ankle injury that left him in lots of pain as he was carried to the locker room. The team believes Jones sustained a high-ankle sprain, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN, and he will undergo an MRI tomorrow to confirm and determine the severity of the injury. 

Jones has had a tough start to his sophomore season after a rookie year that earned him a Pro Bowl bid as an alternate for the quarterback he played against today, Lamar Jackson, who sat out of last year’s all-star game due to injury. After Jones earned praise in Year 1 for protecting the football with a touchdown to interception ratio of 22 to 13, the same has been difficult to say this season as he’s only thrown two touchdowns to five interceptions in the first three weeks. Much of this can surely be attributed to the change of offensive coordinators, but, unfortunately, this new health-scare will only make it more difficult for Jones to improve under the new guidance.

If the MRI tomorrow confirms the diagnosis and reveals that Jones will miss time, Brian Hoyer is currently listed as the primary backup for the quarterback position. Rookie fourth-round pick Bailey Zappe is the third quarterback on the depth chart. Zappe has obviously never started in an NFL game, but he did set a record with 62 touchdown passes last season for the Hilltoppers, besting the former college record-holder Joe Burrow, by two.

Hoyer, on the other hand, has extensive experience from his 13 years in the league. The journeyman quarterback has worn seven franchises’ jerseys and is currently in his third stint with the Patriots. Despite a career as a backup quarterback, Hoyer has appeared in at least one game every year of his career and thrown at least one pass in every season, as well. He’s also been in position to start 39 games over the years, getting to serve as a team’s main quarterback for the season twice: in 2014 for the Browns and in 2015 for the Texans. In both situations that he started a majority of a team’s games for the season, he had a winning record as a starter, going 7-6 in Cleveland and 5-4 in Houston.

With Jones’ injury, it’s looking like Hoyer will get a chance to extend those streaks. If Jones ends up missing a longer period of time, it might be more prudent to get Zappe, their 23-year-old backup, some live NFL snaps, as Hoyer inches closer to his 37th birthday next month. Regardless, the task of keeping up with the Dolphins (3-0) and the Bills (2-1) in the AFC East just got a lot more challenging for New England.

AFC Notes: Deablo, Koonce, Zappe

The Raiders turned heads when they selected offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood in the first round of the 2021 draft. His play as a rookie didn’t ease concerns that he represented a reach being taken that high, but other rookies provided cause for optimism in 2022 and beyond.

In a breakdown of the entire class’ roster standing and outlook for the upcoming campaign, Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal writes that a number of players the Raiders drafted after Leatherwood impressed in their inaugural seasons, and are in line for larger workloads in 2022. One of those is linebacker Divine Deablo, whom the Raiders chose at N0. 80 last year.

The Virginia Tech alum spent his rookie season converting from safety, which he played in college. He finished the season strong, though, starting five games and making 45 tackles. His pass coverage was a sore spot, leading to a PFF grade of only 53.7 in that department. Still, the departure of veteran Cory Littleton should open up a permanent starting role for Deablo, making him a player the Raiders “can comfortably count on.”

Here are some other AFC notes, including one more from that same Raiders piece:

  • Bonsignore identifies Malcolm Koonce as another young player who could see significantly more playing time in his second NFL campaign. The 24-year-old was on the field for only 48 defensive snaps as a rookie, but he managed to record a pair of sacks with that limited opportunity. With Carl Nassib no longer on the roster, the No. 79 pick has been practicing as a backup to defensive end Maxx Crosby, Bonsignore notes. At six-foot-two, 250 pounds, however, he could also see time rotating in for Chandler Jones as a stand-up rusher. In all, Koonce could project as somewhat of a breakout candidate for the team’s defense.
  • On a different note, the Patriots will use training camp to establish the pecking order at QB behind Mac Jones. The team has veteran Brian Hoyer in the No. 2 spot for now, but fourth round rookie Bailey Zappe will be competing with him for the role. ESPN’s Mike Reiss reports that at this point, it “seems like a long shot” that the latter will win the backup job. The team preferring the veteran would come as little surprise; Zappe threw for 62 touchdowns last season at Western Kentucky, but is widely regarded as a raw prospect in need of significant developmental time. As Reiss recalls, though, Hoyer himself has experienced unexpectedly winning the backup role as a rookie before, and this could be a key positional battle to watch when training camp begins later this month.

Patriots Sign Round 2 WR Tyquan Thornton, Round 4 QB Bailey Zappe To Wrap Class

Second- and third-day draftees came to terms with the Patriots on their rookie contracts Thursday. After signing Tyquan Thornton and Bailey Zappe to their four-year pacts, the team has completed its draft deals for 2022.

A Baylor-produced wide receiver with a 4.28-second 40-yard dash time on his pre-draft resume, Thornton enticed the Patriots to trade up four spots — from No. 54 to No. 50 — to acquire him. The Bill Belichick-era Pats have notoriously struggled to identify college receiver talent, at least with high picks, and recent Baylor wideouts to come through the league have delivered inconsistent pro careers. The Pats will aim to buck both trends here.

Baylor has sent the likes of Denzel Mims, Corey Coleman, Josh Gordon and Kendall Wright into the league as first- or second-round picks (Gordon was a Round 2 supplemental choice). Some of those players have enjoyed moments or short stretches of production, but the Big 12 program has not seen its top pass-catching cogs enjoy extended runs as starters. New England has swung and missed on highly drafted wideouts N’Keal Harry, Aaron Dobson and Chad Jackson over the past 16 years — the only first- or second-round wideouts the team has chosen — but obviously did quite well with late-rounders Julian Edelman and Matthew Slater. UDFA Jakobi Meyers has played well through three seasons, too, earning a second-round RFA tender from the team this offseason.

Although Thornton broke through as a senior by catching 62 passes for 948 yards and 10 touchdowns, he surpassed 17 yards per reception during both his freshman and sophomore years. In addition to Thornton, the Pats added DeVante Parker via trade and Lil’Jordan Humphrey late in the offseason. That duo joins the Meyers-Kendrick BourneNelson Agholor trio. Harry remains on the roster but has been in trade rumors for multiple years now.

Zappe is coming off a historically productive season in his lone fall at a Division I-FBS program. The transfer passer broke Joe Burrow‘s recent FBS record by throwing 62 touchdown passes (compared to 11 interceptions). Zappe, a Houston Baptist import, also tallied 5,967 passing yards. Zappe played in a pass-crazed system and will attempt to transition to the pros, attempting to develop behind Mac Jones and Brian Hoyer.

Here is New England’s 2022 draft class:

Round 1: No. 29 (from 49ers through Dolphins and Chiefs) Cole Strange, G (UT-Chattanooga) (signed)
Round 2: No. 50 (from Dolphins through Chiefs) Tyquan Thornton, WR (Baylor) (signed)
Round 3: No. 85 Marcus Jones, CB (Houston) (signed)
Round 4: No. 121 (from Dolphins through Chiefs) Jackie Jones, CB (Arizona State) (signed)
Round 4: No. 127 Pierre Strong, RB (South Dakota State) (signed)
Round 4: No. 137 (from Rams through Texans and Panthers) Bailey Zappe, QB (Western Kentucky) (signed)
Round 6: No. 183 (from Texans) Kevin Harris, RB (South Carolina) (signed)
Round 6: No. 200 Sam Roberts, DT (Northwest Missouri State) (signed)
Round 6: No. 210:  Chasen HinesC (LSU) (signed)
Round 7: No. 245 (from Cowboys through Texans) Andrew Stueber, OG (Michigan) (signed)

Patriots Rumors: Injury Updates, Zappe, Perkins

The Patriots released some practice photos recently and, according to Zack Cox of NESN, some of the pictures seem to indicate the much anticipated returns of several previously-injured Patriots. These players included running back James White, cornerback Jonathan Jones, tight end Dalton Keene, linebacker Raekwon McMillan, and linebacker Anfernee Jennings.

White suffered a hip injury last year that required surgery serious enough to end his season and leave him bedridden for months. He hasn’t been fully cleared to return, but seeing him active on the field bodes well for his recovery.

Jones had surgery to repair his shoulder in October and missed the remainder of the season in recovery. McMillan tore his ACL before the season started, but impressed in his limited time before the injury. Keene and Jennings were both placed on injured reserve in August and missed the entire season as a result.

Here are a few other rumors from New England:

  • New England turned some heads on Day 3 of the Draft when they selected quarterback Bailey Zappe in the fourth round. At a point in the Draft where some teams normally address their positional needs, the Patriots selected a quarterback in the first draft after rookie passer Mac Jones led them to the playoffs. For an explanation, ESPN’s Mike Reiss pointed to a discussion with analysts Todd McShay and Louis Riddick, in which they cover “how it can be good business to draft and develop quarterbacks.” He also quotes former NFL general manger Randy Mueller who applauded the pick, saying that he would rather draft for value over need at that point in the Draft.
  • After not appearing in any regular season games last season, second-year Patriots outside linebacker Ronnie Perkins is ready to take the next step, according to Reiss. Perkins was buried on the depth chart behind Kyle Van Noy, now with the Chargers, and Jamie Collins, now a free agent. The departure of Van Noy and Collins leaves a hole opposite Pro Bowl pass rusher Matt Judon and Reiss reports that New England coaches are confident Perkins is getting ready to step up.

Patriots Draft QB Bailey Zappe At No. 137

Despite using a first-round pick on a QB last year, the Patriots have used a 2021 fourth rounder on another. The Patriots have drafted Western Kentucky QB Bailey Zappe.

Zappe had a prolific 2021 season, setting single-season FBS records for most passing yards (5,967) and passing TD (62). The 23-year-old wasn’t considered to have the same upside as some of the QBs taken before him, but he was still a popular name in the workout circuit. The Panthers were among the teams that expressed interest in Zappe.

It’s a bit of a curious move for the Patriots, after Mac Jones earned a Pro Bowl nod as a rookie in 2021. Of course, Bill Belichick and co. weren’t afraid to use draft picks on QBs during Tom Brady‘s tenure in New England. During Brady’s time with the Patriots, the team used first- to fourth-round picks on six QBs (Rohan Davey, Kevin O’Connell, Ryan Mallett, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett, and Jarrett Stidham). In other words, the Patriots will use an early(ish)-round draft pick on a high-quality backup. As NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweets, one scout believes Zappe will be a “great backup forever.”

Jones will surely be the starter in 2022, but the rest of the depth chart will be interesting to watch. Zappe will compete with veteran Brian Hoyer for the number-two spot. The Patriots are also still rostering Stidham, a fourth-round pick in 2019.

Latest On Panthers QB Plans

While the NFL’s quarterback carousel is just about complete, we still don’t have clarity on the Panthers’ QB position. Heading into the offseason, GM Scott Fitterer admitted that the quarterback job was “open,” but after losing out in the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes, Fitterer walked back his remarks and stated that incumbent Sam Darnold was in the lead for the starting nod. Now, with the NFL Draft coming up at the end of the month, the organization still isn’t ruling out selecting a QB with the No. 6 pick.

[RELATED: Panthers Considering Trades For No. 6 Pick]

According to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, the “consensus of the people in this league” is that the Panthers will ultimately select a QB in the upcoming draft, with Malik Willis and Kenny Pickett considered the favorites. While Albert Breer of SI.com agrees with the QB sentiment, he hasn’t heard as much buzz about Pickett, and “with jobs on the line this year,” the organization may play it safe by taking the most NFL-ready option. Besides Willis, Breer also points to Matt Corral and Desmond Ridder as options. Sam Howell and Bailey Zappe were also included in the team’s 30 allotted prospect visits.

We learned recently that a trade down is a real possibility, and that could ultimately open the door to the Panthers selecting a quarterback with their first-round pick. The popular sentiment has been that No. 6 is too early to select from this year’s crop of quarterbacks. However, a trade for a mid-first would be “more palatable” for the front office.

While the Panthers could look to a first-round QB, Darnold still believes he’s ready to compete for the starting gig. Following an inconsistent start to his career with the Jets, Darnold underwhelmed during his first season with the Panthers, guiding the team to a 4-7 record while tossing nine touchdowns vs. 13 interceptions.

“It’s truly whatever happens happens, because at the end of the day it’s out of my control, and I know that,” Darnold,said during a recent podcast appearance (via ESPN’s David Newton). “I have enough security in myself where I can say, ‘I know I’m a good quarterback. I know I can be a good quarterback in this league. I’ve proved it.’

“And I know there’s a team, if something happens, that would want me.”

Meanwhile, following whispers that the Panthers could be the most likely landing spot for Browns QB Baker Mayfield, Panthers receiver Robby Anderson made it pretty clear what his feelings were on the rumors. On Instagram, Anderson commented “Nooooo” under a picture connecting Mayfield to Carolina (h/t Brad Stainbrook of CBS Sports on Twitter).