Some news and notes for this morning:
Jones Was On His Game Monday
So far through these early spring sessions, New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones has looked sharp and Monday saw him hit another level during the team’s minicamp practice.
According to MassLive’s Mark Daniels, Jones hit his first 25 consecutive passes to begin the session, which saw him hit 10 different receivers over that span. The third-year quarterback overall looks confident and seemingly feeling good about where things are under new offensive coordinator, Bill O’Brien, which has been a refreshing change from last offseason.
That’s certainly quite the contrast from a year ago. Things were definitely a little more shaky during the spring and then just evolved into an absolute grind through training camp, with the offense never really coming together.
There was a lot of inconsistency over that stretch, with Jones looking visually frustrated as former coach Matt Patricia tried implementing various things that seemed to cause friction with not just Jones, but other offensive skill players.
By all accounts, at least so far, that all appears to be a thing of the past.
This time around, he appears to be happy with the direction things are going.
“Everything’s been good,” said Jones. “Every day, just trying to hit all the buckets. Working out, running, and then coming out here with the team, trying to have fun, trying to compete. Definitely feel like we’re competing against each other, which is really good, going back and forth.”
“We’ve got a really good defense that we get to go against so it makes it a lot harder everyday. But I feel like we’ve made some progress and once again, we’re in shorts and helmets so it’s hard to really tell, but I feel like the operation’s been pretty decent and we’re just trying to work together and really just become a team.”
Zappe Quietly Doing Well
While Jones continues to appear poised to start the 2023 season, second-year quarterback Bailey Zappe has also quietly seized the back up role behind Jones, which is another solid step forward for the former Western Kentucky standout.
Zappe’s emergence and his continued growth has seemingly led to Belichick’s decision not to bring in a veteran to anchor the group, which speaks volumes to how far Zappe has come. Clearly, the young QB already did exactly what a back-up needed to do last season, going 2-0 as a starter during Jones’ absence while he was out with an ankle injury.
He also nearly won his first appearance after he being thrust into action thanks to the concussion suffered by former Patriot Brian Hoyer in their Week 4 meeting out in Green Bay. That happened barely 10 minutes into the contest, yet Zappe didn’t miss a beat when he took over.
The then-rookie completed 10-of-15 for 99-yards and a touchdown in that game, with Patricia’s conservative playcalling both late in the contest and in overtime preventing Zappe from making a few plays that could have seen them pull off the upset against Aaron Rodgers.
Patricia called just four pass plays over the final 30-minutes of regulation while instead calling 14 rushing plays over that span.
The result ended up being a Packers win, which was disappointing, especially given how well Zappe had played.
So far this spring, Zappe has taken all the second-team reps and has left no doubt about where he is on the depth chart. He’s worked hard this offseason and the fact he’s already ascended to the #2 quarterback on an NFL team is definitely quite the accomplishment.
While he hasn’t been as sharp as Jones, Zappe has still been playing well. MassLive’s Mark Daniels has Jones completing 89% of his throws thus far, while Zappe came in at an impressive 75%, with Trace McSorely hitting 64% of his.
Belichick praised Zappe for his hard work this offseason, and also noted that the young QB’s conditioning has improved compared to last season.
“Bailey works hard like he always does,” said Belichick on Monday. “He puts in a lot of time. His conditioning is way better than it was last year. He’s really done a good job on that. It’s the same for all of the players at that position.”
“There’s a lot going on and a lot of moving parts. It’s good to get out there and have these days to work with our teammates, our receivers, tight ends, running backs, and work against our defense. It benefits everybody.”
Belichick Acknowledges Hopkins Rumors
Belichick was obviously asked on Monday about the latest DeAndre Hopkins reports that the receiver is scheduled for a visit this week, but as expected, he didn’t offer much insight.
What was interesting was that he did actually concede that there had been some contact with him, with Belichick saying, “We talked to him, we’re working through it.”
He did go on to also add that there were some logistical things they were still working out.
“I think it relates more to logistics and things like that,” regarding his uncertainty about the visit. “So, I’m not really a travel agent here. I’m not going to say it’s going to happen here, or not going to happen or whatever.”
“There’s a lot of other stuff going on that I’m not directly involved in, and so I’m not going to say anything and then you turn around and say I misled you in some way because that’s not what I’m going to do.”
Still, the fact he even acknowledged it at all was certainly unusual for someone who normally would have completely brushed off that type of question.
Guy Among Players Missing, Robinson Released
Patriots defensive lineman Lawrence Guy is among players missing from minicamp, with Mike Reiss reporting his absence is contract-related.
A total of eight players were reportedly absent, with JuJu Smith-Schuster, Trent Brown, Kayshon Boutte, Tyquan Thornton, Tae Hayes, Quandre Mostly, and Mike Onwenu joining Guy among players not on hand.
Belichick briefly commented on the absences, saying, “I don’t think everybody’s here. We’re working through a couple things.”
The club also reportedly released running back James Robinson on Monday, which seemingly shows that the Patriots may be happy with what they’ve seen so far from the rest of their running back group ahead of training camp.
Dobson, Blount on Hand
A couple of former Patriots were on hand at practice Monday, with former running back LeGarrette Blount and receiver Aaron Dobson each being spotted on the practice field taking in the session.
According to Belichick, the two appear to be exploring the possibility of becoming coaches.
“Well, they’re here as part of the Bill Walsh Fellowship,” explained Belichick. “I’m glad to have them, it’s great to have them here. They’re here to learn, observe, and they’re doing that. So, I’m happy to help them with their coaching careers. I’m sure there’ll be others around, too. Pat [Chung] was here last week, so yeah, it’s great to have those guys around.”
Blount has already been working in the coaching ranks, working with a youth football team out in Arizona. He did see his name in the headlines last October after getting into a bit of trouble thanks to an altercation he was involved in following one of those games.
The former NFL running back took full responsibility for the incident, and he’s since been quietly busy with off-field appearances as well as a highly-rated Patriots podcast with Boston Globe writer, Christopher Price.
Meanwhile, Dobson had been involved in Real Estate since walking away from football out in the desert in Arizona, but it looks like he’d also like to potentially work his way into the coaching ranks.
For those who remember, the former receiver’s career showed promise, but injuries ultimately plagued him. The former standout from Marshall was drafted in the 2nd round in 2013 and played three seasons in New England, including a pretty productive rookie season where he caught 37 passes for 519 yards and four touchdowns, as well as finishing with 6 passes of 20+ yards that included two that went for 40+. One of those came on his first career NFL reception against the New York Jets in Week 2, which was a 39-yard catch and run by the rookie for a touchdown.
A broken foot he suffered late in the year plagued him and played a part in keeping him from getting back to where he was as a rookie. It ultimately cut his career with the Patriots short, which was disappointing given the promise he showed in his first season.
Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: Aaron Dobson Bailey Zappe Bill Belichick DeAndre Hopkins LeGarrette Blount Mac Jones