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#PostPulpit Mailbag: Will Mac Jones retake quarterback duties over Bailey Zappe?

Related: Patriots quarterback Mac Jones ‘expects to be available’ against Bears

New England Patriots v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images

The New England Patriots enter prime time as they welcome the Chicago Bears to town for a Monday night showdown. As New England takes the field at Gillette Stadium, all eyes will be on Mac Jones as the quarterback appears to be nearing a return from his high-ankle sprain.

Lets empty out the #PostPulpit mailbag.

@SteveRosenheim! Who do you think is starting at QB on Monday?

While Mac Jones is reportedly set to return Monday night, watching him at practice on Wednesday seemed to confirm those reports. Jones was moving as well as he has been since injuring his ankle, straight up sprinting at points during warmups. He also went over to take drills with the starting offensive line afterwards, another sign that he seems to be on track to return Monday night.


@Fillinusername Zappe or Mac as our starting QB?

@Davidkn70019674 Do you buy into the Zappe is better than Mac crap? i want to see mac go out there and play I think he’s gonna have a great turn around

So, as Mac is set to return, should he regain his role as the starting quarterback?

To begin this discussion, let’s first give Bailey Zappe his credit. His play the past two weeks have been exceptional and he’s showcased some special things in terms of processing speed, pocket movement, and field vision for a fourth-round rookie. Overall, his game against Cleveland may have been the best game a Patriot quarterback has played in the post-Brady era since Cam Newton’s Sunday night in Seattle or Jones’ blowout over the Browns last season.

Now, that does not mean the job is his. The belief is that Jones can do everything Zappe has shown the past two weeks, and he did for the most part of his rookie season in a similar offense. Jones will be the option going forward, but it will be interesting to see if they alter their offense at all.

As we’ve discussed in the past, the offense they ran with Jones last year, similar to what they've run with Zappe, has its limitations. While it can pile up regular season wins and a spot in the wild card playoffs, it can not compete with the Buffalos of the league. That’s why New England spent the first three weeks of the season with Mac pushing the ball downfield more out of shotgun.

The downside of that was evident, as Jones tossed five interceptions through three games. With the former first-round pick back under center, the Patriots need to do a better job of finding balance — a word Matt Patricia used following the Ravens game — in their passing attack.

Zappe has shown the benefits of more under center, play-action passing that can still generate big plays down the field. New England should not retreat to fully to this style, but incorporating more of it while still allowing Jones to pick his shots would be a beneficial step forward.


@patsnewsclips What do you think of Matt Patricia’s play calling so far?

Matt Patricia and Joe Judge deserve all the credit in the world for their work with Bailey Zappe and the offense the past few weeks. They have developed really strong game plans to make things easy for the rookie while also getting players like Tyquan Thornton and the tight ends more involved.

Some of Patricia’s best work came on third-down against Cleveland. Facing a third-and-10 in the second quarter, Patricia dialed up a draw to Rhamondre Stevenson in what appeared to be an obvious passing situation. Stevenson took it 31 yards for a score. Later in the third quarter on third-and-1, appearing to be a run situation, Patricia called a play-action pass that left Hunter Henry wide open for a 31-yard catch and run touchdown.

It's been a strong start for the former defensive coordinator on the offensive side of the ball, but he’ll now have some decisions to make within the offense with Mac Jones coming back (as discussed above).


@MatosJose5 Is there any truth to the Mac jones friction with the Pats?

From viewing Mac Jones throughout training camp and the regular season, there has been frustration from his part. But, the frustration I have viewed has been a direct result of poor play. We know by now Jones is an extremely competitive guy and the early season struggles likely were frustrating - as they were for any player.

The frustration was most apparent in training camp as the offense struggled mightily. There were week-long stretches of the defense ‘winning’ practices, something that rarely happens in training camp. As New England experimented with new things during the summer, struggles ensued which left Jones throwing helmets on the sideline in the preseason or quickly departing the field after losing a drill to end practice.

Now, perhaps there is more to his frustration than that. Purely speculating without any inside Information — or random Twitter DMs — maybe he is not a fan of being coached by former defensive and special teams coaches. Or perhaps as the Patriots continue to incorporate more of Alabama’s offense this year, he is used to it being taught a different way.

But, through these eyes, he has been frustrated at times because of poor play, as to be expected.


@BostonEvan11 What’s wrong with Wynn

Watching Isaiah Wynn, he still does not look comfortable at right tackle. His footwork looks shaky from the right side (something Matt Chatham pointed out on Sunday here), especially during pass protection. After spending his whole career on the left side with his post foot being his right foot, flipping that operation around has caused problems.

The footwork struggles could also help explain part of the mental lapses, as he leads all offensive linemen in the league with eight penalties. Perhaps as Wynn is not covering enough ground with his kick step, he is looking to get an early jump to gain an advantage.


@ForbesSumner What’s the answer at RT? Bringing someone in (even if pickings are slim)? Or a committee approach with Wynn and Cannon competing for time? Seems to be a glaring weakness going forward in 2022.

So, with Wynn’s struggles, what do the Patriots do at right tackle going forward? Many are clamoring for Marcus Cannon to take over the starting job. Cannon looks like his old self in the run game, but hasn't been perfect in pass protection either. The difference with Cannon is he has not made the catastrophic mistakes like Wynn, but he also has played significantly less.

Unfortunately for New England, tackles are one of the most premiere positions in the league. They are not many upgrade options out there. Yodny Cajuste is eligible to return off injured reserve next week which will add another piece to the puzzle. As they had two roster spots open this week and did not add another tackle to the mix, I could see them continuing with Wynn for now with Marcus Cannon continuing to sprinkle in.

Expect tackle to be at the top of the Patriots draft board next year.


@MJDiego23 Should Jonnu be getting Gronk like routes if he does get reps?

We’ve been clamoring for Jonnu to get a more normal route tree since he’s got here. Getting him the ball downfield more will only do better things for this offense. I mean, just look at him run this seam against Cleveland:


@FindACure5034 Do you Marcus Jones getting more reps? If there was a safe game to test it, this will be one

It appeared the game to test it was last week, as Jones saw a career-high 34 defensive snaps. What was most surprising that of those 34 snaps, 23 came as a boundary corner while just 10 came from the slot. At 5-foot-8, Jones projected best as a slot option, but he impressed out wide on Sunday, especially in coverage against Amari Cooper at times.

Jones’ athleticism has never been questioned and he gives the Patriots another interesting piece to the defensive secondary. I’d expect for him to continue getting more reps as the season progresses.


@Skywal1Thaddeus What kind of position do you see Bill trading for at the deadline? Love these Q&As, please keep doing them!

The area that seemed like a need for the Patriots was linebacker, which brought the name Shaq Thompson to the forefront as the Panthers are blowing things up. New England would be responsible for less than $800k this season and $12.36 million next year.

But, New England has started to alter its linebacker usage the last few weeks which has resulted in improved play. Jahlani Tavai has proved to be a solid edge opposite of Matthew Judon on early downs. After struggling against the run on early downs, Mack Wilson has been used more in coverage and as a pass rusher. New England is finding roles for these players and still have Jamie Collins coming into the mix as he works himself back up after offseason surgery.

Perhaps they add another player with a set role into that equation at linebacker or along the edge — or at tackle if they find a worthy upgrade — but a splashy transaction seems out of the picture.


@aawpoe Is Zappe The New Tom Brady

No.


@thechris104 What are the top 3 Patriot backup QB seasons (not counting Brady in 01)?

  1. Matt Cassell (2008)
  2. Steven Grogan (1985)
  3. The Fever (2022) — duh!

Yes. So much to the extent that Brenden Schooler had a game ball from the Cleveland game waiting for him in his locker on Wednesday.


@PatriotsInform I want to know which Patriots players you’d match with Pokémon. For example, I think Tyquan Thorton’s got some Dodrio vibes.

Let’s end with some fun. After a lot of thinking and research (with lots of help from Pokemon.com), here’s what we got:

  • Mac Jones — Alakazam: An intelligent Pokemon who features an Inner Focus ability. Alakazam doesn't have the most powerful attack and is faster than some think. Sounds like Jones, who has limited physical traits and was making plays happen with his legs early this year.
  • Michael Onwenu — Blastoise: A big body up front that can play all over the line. Sound familiar?
  • Trent Brown — Snorlax: Does this one need any explanation?
  • Jakobi Meyers — Charmeleon: Charmeleon is vicious in battle but quite relaxed afterwards. Not the fastest Pokemon out there but extremely efficient. Jakobi Meyers doesn't have the traits as some of the other elite wide receivers, but he consistently produces week after week.
  • Ja’Whaun Bentley — Mankey: Pokemon.com says Mankey “will not hesitate to attack anything.” A physical presence up the middle with an Anger Point ability. Sounds like Bentley in the run game.
  • Davon Godchaux — Golem: An immovable object in the middle of the defensive line. Golem cannot be knocked out with one hit with his Sturdy ability, just like Godchaux along the defensive line.
  • Marcus Jones — Ninjask: Ninjask stands at 2’07” but is one of the fastest Pokemon out there. The similarities to the 5-foot-8 Marcus Jones with crazy athleticism are uncanny.
  • Kyle Dugger — Machoke: A fighting type Pokemon with immense strength that can do it all? That's Kyle Dugger who does perhaps more than anyone else on the Patriots defense, and he does it in an extremely physical way.

That’s all for this week’s #PostPulpit mailbag. If you have questions you’d liked to be answered next week, submit them on Twitter using #PostPulpit! Make sure to be following @iambrianhines and @PatsPulpit as well!