Mac Jones’ eventful week took another turn on Thursday. After already entering it with questions about a back injury he suffered in Week 1 against the Miami Dolphins, the New England Patriots’ starting quarterback is now also dealing with an illness.
Jones sat out Thursday’s practice because of it. While it is not expected to hurt his availability for the upcoming road contest at the Pittsburgh Steelers, the absence is far from ideal.
It also put the spotlight on the Patriots’ depth behind their undisputed starting quarterback. In case Jones were to miss this week’s game or any other contests, veteran Brian Hoyer would likely take over with rookie Bailey Zappe elevating to the backup spot. So, let’s take a closer look at the two to find out more about them.
Brian Hoyer: The most experienced quarterback on New England’s roster, Hoyer originally entered the league as a rookie free agent back in 2009. After three years he left the team for the first time and went on to spend time with seven other organizations, including the Steelers in 2012. Along the way, he appeared in 75 regular season games and two playoff contests with 39 starts. One of those came with the Patriots in 2020.
Hoyer re-signed with New England earlier this offseason to continue to serve as Mac Jones’ primary backup. He spent the entire summer in just that role, despite seeing limited action in preseason; playing 29 snaps, the 36-year-old went 13-for-18 (72.2%) for 136 yards and a touchdown.
Bailey Zappe: Zappe originally joined the Patriots as a fourth-round draft pick out of Western Kentucky earlier this week. After re-writing the NCAA record books during his 2021 campaigns with the Hilltoppers, he had a relatively quiet first training camp and preseason: Zappe was locked into the QB3 spot from the get-go and never quite managed to threaten Hoyer’s standing on the roster.
That does not mean the youngster did not get considerable opportunities. Not only did Hoyer miss time this summer, Zappe also appeared in all three preseason contests and played a total of 119 offensive snaps — by far the most among all QBs on the roster. He completed 45 of 71 pass attempts (63.4%) for 462 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.
Ideally, Zappe will not see the field this season; the same is true for Hoyer outside of select late-game situations. What the last few days showed, however, is that both need to stay ready in case something does happen to Jones — whether that is an injury or illness.