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Patriots teammates voice support for Mac Jones after apparent demotion

The Patriots are reportedly preparing backup Bailey Zappe to start on Sunday against the Chargers.

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NFL: OCT 29 Patriots at Dolphins Photo by Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

At least for now, Mac Jones’ era as New England Patriots starting quarterback is over. After three years at the helm of the team’s offense, including a string of disappointing outings this season, backup Bailey Zappe is being prepared to lead the troops into battle on Sunday against the visiting Los Angeles Chargers.

For Jones, this presents the latest step in his fall from grace. The 2021 first-round draft pick played at a level worthy of being in the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year discussion, but since then has failed to develop as desired.

While his 2022 sophomore campaign was already disappointing, the 2023 has been rock bottom for Jones. In his 11 starts this season, he went 224-of-345 (64.9%) as a passer for 2,120 yards, 10 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He also was benched four times in favor of Zappe, including in each of the Patriots’ last two games.

With the team now at 2-9 and fielding one of the least productive scoring offenses in football, the plug on Jones’ starting tenure seems to have been pulled.

Neither head coach Bill Belichick nor any of the team’s players commented on who would start the Week 13 game versus the Chargers on Wednesday. However, Jones’ teammates did offer public support for the 25-year-old.

“He’s been great,” wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster told reporters in the locker room. “That dude, I’ll tell you one thing, his attitude with everything going on, he’s a very positive dude. He’s a professional character in all this. Very supportive of everyone.”

Despite some rumblings that Jones’ support in the locker room might be waning, his teammates repeatedly spoke highly of him. Wednesday was more of the same, even with the circumstances of his role having changed.

During the brief media window at the start of practice, he did not attempt any passes and appeared to be the third man up after Zappe and rookie Malik Cunningham. That may or may not be indicative of his role on Sunday, but it is the culmination of what has been a challenging season for the young QB.

Nonetheless, his teammates still appear to have his back.

“I’ll never have anything negative to say about Mac,” said tight end Mike Gesicki, via NESN’s Zack Cox.

“He’s the same guy that reached out to me the day after I signed here. He’s the same guy that had me over to his house. He’s the same guy that has led us though good and led us through adversity. He’s the same guy, and I think that he deserves a ton of credit for the way that he handles himself, the way that he goes about his process, how he prepares. I can’t say enough good things about him.”

Except for a three-game stretch in 2022, when he recovered from a high ankle sprain, Jones started all 43 possible regular season and playoff games since his arrival in New England. Now, however, his future — both in the short and long term — is in serious doubt.