Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions will not be Bailey Zappe’s first encounter with Dan Campbell. The New England Patriots rookie quarterback, who is a realistic candidate to start this week in light of the team’s injuries at the position, already came in contact with the Lions’ head coach at the Senior Bowl.
Zappe and the American team were coached by by Campbell and his staff, giving the latter a close-up look at the Patriots’ eventual fourth-round draft pick. He apparently left a positive impression on the Lions.
“Highly intelligent,” Campbell said of Zappe earlier this week. “I mean, 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.”
The American team ended up losing the Senior Bowl 20-10, with Zappe going 8-for-13 for 103 yards and an interception. Three months later, the Patriots brought the Western Kentucky quarterback aboard with the 137th overall selection in the draft.
While originally serving as New England’s third quarterback behind starter Mac Jones and veteran backup Brian Hoyer, the rookie was thrown into the fire against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. Jones missed the game due to an ankle injury, while Hoyer suffered a concussion in the first quarter.
With Zappe at the helm, New England took the Packers to overtime before eventually losing 27-24. The Patriots’ young QB completed 10 of his 15 pass attempts for 99 yards as well as a touchdown to DeVante Parker.
With Jones still recovering and Hoyer remaining in concussion protocol, Zappe might be getting his first career start on Sunday against the Lions. If that indeed happens, their head coach believes New England will be ready.
“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,” Campbell said. “I thought Coach [Matt] Patricia called a good game, getting them in there.
“And I know, if he’s the guy, he’ll be much more settled. That’s hard for a rookie, to just go in there and, ‘There you go, you’re rolling.’ They’ll have a good plan for him. Certainly, he’s got the FBI for sure.”
It remains to be seen whether or not Zappe will be able to test his FBI — short for football intelligence — against the Lions’ 32nd ranked defense this week. But Campbell knows not to take the rookie and the team around him lightly.