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Patriots’ Wednesday practice suggests potential quarterback change

Bailey Zappe took the majority of reps during positional drills.

New England Patriots Practice Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The New England Patriots held their first practice of the week on Wednesday, in which only two players were spotted throwing passes during media-watched positional drills: Bailey Zappe and Malik Cunningham.

It was a change from last week, as Mac Jones led off positional drills - in which receivers run routes on air - with Zappe rotating in behind him. With Zappe handling the majority of reps this session, Jones stood and watched from behind the group with Will Grier.

Zappe has appeared in four games this season all in relief of Jones, but has mostly struggled completing just under 49 percent of his passes and throwing two interceptions.

Bill Belichick declined to announce a starter on Wednesday, but made it sound like the second-year quarterback needed to improve in several areas when asked what he needed to do to earn a start.

“Look, every player, whatever opportunities they have, need to do the best with them that they can – practice, games, even in meetings and other preparation opportunities,” Belichick explained. “So, that’s what a player can do – be prepared, do the best he can, and that’s what each guy will have an opportunity to do somewhere along the line over the course of a long season.

“A lot of times it’s multiple times in a day. Sometimes, for some players, the opportunities are a little bit different. But, when those opportunities come, that’s what players need to do. That’s what they’ve been told, and they know and understand that, and I think they’re doing the best they can. We’ll see how it goes.”

While Zappe handled the majority of reps on the back field Wednesday, rookie Malik Cunningham occasionally mixed in behind him. Cunningham currently resides on the team’s practice squad and has appeared in just one game this season in Week 6 (six total snaps).

Cunningham explained last week that he had not practiced at quarterback since that game when he served as Jones’ primary backup, while offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien stated Tuesday the UDFA continues to see most of his practice time at wide receiver.

Bill Belichick described Cunningham’s situation as “unique” when asked about his practice routine at both positions.

“It depends a little bit on the offense that we’re seeing,” he explained. “So, if we are seeing offenses run plays that he’s very good at running, teams like Philadelphia, the first Miami game, then you know, he gets, I mean they’re practice squad reps but they’re also reps on things that he does.

“So, he’s kind of a unique player. Things aren’t so straight-lined with him. He’s different than probably every other player that we have on the team. So, he’s handled a little differently.”

The Patriots will welcome the Los Angeles Chargers to Foxboro on Sunday for their Week 13 contest.