With Mac Jones still nursing an ankle injury, the New England Patriots again had to turn to Bailey Zappe to lead their offense against the Cleveland Browns. The rookie quarterback did a fine job yet again: he limited his mistakes, posted his third straight game of a passer rating of 100-plus, and improved to 2-0 as a starter.
Zappe sure has impressed, which in turn has led to plenty of talk about a potential quarterback controversy in New England. Will Jones, who threw five interceptions over his first three games, really resume the starting gig once fully healthy again?
All signs point to yes, but the speculation is still not going away — in large part because head coach Bill Belichick is not committing publicly to Jones over Zappe. Instead, he is staying on his usual course when it comes to discussing injuries.
Belichick is not entertaining any hypotheticals. The postgame media availabilities after the game against the Browns was more of the same.
“We’ll see how that process is,” he said Monday about Jones’ status. “Mac still wasn’t able to play yesterday. We’ll continue to evaluate him and see how he’s doing physically.”
Jones has been out since suffering a high ankle sprain in Week 3 against the Baltimore Ravens. Veteran backup Brian Hoyer initially took over as New England’s starter the following week in Green Bay, but a concussion knocked him out of that game in the first quarter.
Enter Bailey Zappe, one of three Patriots draft picks in the fourth round earlier this year. Zappe has been New England’s quarterback ever since, and over his 11 quarters plus one overtime period has put up some solid numbers.
The youngster has completed 72.9 percent of his passes for 596 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. For comparison, Jones hit only 66. percent of his throws for 786 yards, two touchdowns and five picks before hurting his ankle.
That said, Belichick would not go as far as comparing Zappe’s recent success to Jones’ outing from Weeks 1 through 3.
“I don’t look at it that way, no,” he told WEEI’s The Greg Hill Show on Monday.
Still, his team has two quarterbacks now on the roster who have won games as starters this season. Even Belichick essentially admitted that that is in itself a positive.
“As a coach you always want as many good players as you can get,” he said. “That’s true with every position and every player. You always try to help them improve and be better players. That’s our job.”
Belichick did not completely shut down talk about the quarterback position since the game in Cleveland, though. In fact, he spoke highly of both Zappe and Jones — albeit based on the different situations the two currently find themselves in.
Zappe, of course, is still a rookie who was thrust into the starting spot rather unexpectedly. He has accounted well for himself, though, and is gaining some valuable experience along the way.
“He learns everyday, whether it’s practice, or meetings, or game experiences,” Belichick said after Sunday’s game. “He has pretty good instincts, but there is a lot for him to learn. There are things today that he learned from and he was able to take advantage of and make a couple plays. He had the opportunity. It’s all about performance.”
As far as Jones is concerned, he has been relegated to rehabilitation and behind-the-scenes work. That said, Belichick made sure to point out that he has still been valuable to the team even after going down injured.
“Mac does a great job,” he said about the nominal starter. “He gives us great leadership and is a great presence there for our entire team, especially offensively and in the quarterback room. Mac’s got a lot of insight, having played especially a team like this that he played last year. There’s been a lot of great insight all the time, whether he’s playing or the last couple of weeks when he wasn’t playing, he still adds a lot to us.”