Mac Jones is set to start for the New England Patriots in Week 6. But after back-to-back catastrophic games that ended with him on the bench, the third-year quarterback is likely down to his last strike.
If things go south for Jones again on Sunday in Las Vegas, the Patriots may have to turn elsewhere at the QB position - and likely would have already done so if the roster was not lacking a capable backup.
Over the last two weeks, clean up duties have gone to second-year backup quarterback Bailey Zappe. But, Zappe hasn’t been impressive enough to unseat Jones.
Through two appearances, Zappe has completed just 7-of-18 passes for 79 yards. Filling in last week against New Orleans, he had two notable misses downfield to Hunter Henry and Kendrick Bourne, which play a large hand in him ranking as the league’s worst passer in completion percentage over expected (-19.1).
While Zappe does look more comfortable in the pocket then Jones, the accuracy issues are a trend that has continued from the summer as he had a noticeably tough time adjusting to life in Bill O’Brien’s offense. It got to a point where the Patriots were content with losing the QB, as they waived Zappe during roster cuts before eventually signing him back to the practice squad.
With New England seemingly unwillingly to make the long-term switch to Zappe, that brings us to the wild card in the QB room: journeyman Will Grier.
Grier was signed by the Patriots earlier in September off the Cincinnati Bengals practice squad. The 28-year old became in line of the latest third string quarterback that have cycled through New England this year, following the likes of Trace McSorely, Matt Corral, and Ian Book.
Despite being with the team for just over three weeks now, the 100th overall pick in the 2019 draft has impressed behind the scenes.
“The opportunities he’s had, he’s done well with,” Bill Belichick explained Friday. “It’s just hard to get that position a lot of reps. He’s a smart kid, throws the ball well. He’s got a good arm and has picked up and learned things. Just going to keep going here and try to keep feeding him as much as we can, but there’s only so many snaps out there. Obviously, everyone needs them.”
While Belichick again noted that it is tougher for players to move up the depth chart mid-season due to fewer practice opportunities, the door seems open for Grier to potentially jump Zappe as he gets more and more familiar within the system.
The first indication could come on Sunday based on how New England handles their emergency quarterback spot. Grier has held the role the past two weeks, but Zappe handling those duties in Las Vegas with Grier serving as the primary backup would showcase a change in the pecking order.
From there, New England may not have anything to lose turning things over to Grier if Jones continues on his downwards trajectory.