Bailey Zappe’s stint as New England Patriots starting quarterback was off to a promising start, with him helping the team defeat the Detroit Lions 29-0 in Week 5. However, there is a chance his first start of the 2022 season might also have been his last.
The belief is that the Patriots’ regular starter, Mac Jones, is progressing well from his ankle injury suffered in late September. He is still listed as limited in practice after missing back-to-back games, but based on the brief media window on Wednesday appears to be trending in the right direction.
In turn, Jones might be able to return to starting lineup sooner rather than later. In fact, he reportedly has a “decent chance” to even play as early as this Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.
Jones’ return would push Zappe back into a reserve role, but the fourth-round draft pick is not concerned about any of this right now. In fact, as he pointed out on Wednesday, his concern is simply doing his job rather than investing any thought in the starting gig.
“I’m just taking advantage of my reps at practice and doing what my coaches tell me what I’m supposed to be doing, and doing it to my full ability and giving my team a 100 percent,” Zappe said.
He later echoed these remarks when asked whether he was preparing as the starter for the game in Cleveland.
“I’m preparing to do what my coaches tell me I’m supposed to be doing,” Zappe said. “Right now, that’s to take practice reps and doing everything I can to help the team.”
For the first three weeks of the season, his job was basically learning from the more experienced players ahead of him on the depth. After Jones went down on the final offensive play of the Patriots’ loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 3, however, he moved up the depth chart to serve as QB2 behind new starter Brian Hoyer.
Hoyer’s stint as starter lasted only two series, with a concussion knocking him out for the remainder of the Week 4 contest in Green Bay (and eventually sending him to injured reserve). With both Jones and Hoyer unavailable, it was “Zappe Hour” in New England.
Zappe led the Patriots offense down the stretch versus the Packers before starting against the Detroit Lions one week later. Seven quarters and one overtime period into his NFL Career, he has completed 27 of 36 pass attempts for 287 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Additionally, he has gained an unexpected amount of experience.
“Every day I continue to be more and more comfortable,” Zappe said. “Every day getting reps, getting reps before and after practice with my teammates, during practice. Just continue to take it day-by-day and getting better every day.”
Has this comfortability also led to an expended playbook with him under center, though?
“Yeah, I think so,” he said. “I guess that comes with more and more reps, especially with everybody. As the weeks go on you continue to grow your playbook, continue to grow whether it’s the open field, red area, whatever you have to do to win games.”
The Patriots did win Zappe’s first career start against Detroit, beating the Lions 29-0 behind a solid performance from the rookie passer. While it seems unlikely that he will threaten Jones’ status as the team’s starter anytime soon — the offense is running a reduced playbook with the youngster in compared — Zappe has done his job well.
Based on his statements this week, he will continue to focus on that rather than who will start which games.