Some news and notes for this morning:
After Slow Start, Zappe Settling In
Back up quarterback Bailey Zappe has gotten off to a slow start during training camp, but Sunday finally saw Zappe put together a solid outing after struggling during the first few days of practice at Gillette Stadium.
Bill Belichick gave the players Saturday off and it seemed to do the second-year quarterback some good. Zappe missed just two throws during the competitive portion of Sunday’s session, reportedly finishing 11-of-13 which included several well-thrown touchdowns as they continued working in the red zone.
The players on the other end of those passes were newcomer Jalen Hurd and 2021 7th round pick Tre Nixon, along with second-year wideout Tyquan Thornton. Zappe and the second-team players put on quite a show for the fans who were on hand to take in Sunday’s session, with the former Western Kentucky putting together one of his best practices to date.
Zappe talked about each of those plays during his press conference after practice, with the young QB crediting Hurd for making a nice play on the football.
“Defense went into cover two, we had a hole shot with Jalen Hurd, he had a conversion of a fade or MOR for us and I was able to step up, kind of slide out of the pocket, kind of had a view of the safety and I was able to put it out there and he made a great play,” said Zappe. “Like we say, ‘the back of the end zone, high and away from everybody and he was able to make a play. Great catch for him, I was just able to put the ball where he could go get it.”
The one to Nixon Zappe said was similar, and he emphasized how much tougher it is down in that end of the field.
“Kind of a similar thing, I kind of was just saying red zone, everything’s a lot more quicker,” said Zappe. “The field is a lot shorter. Defense doesn’t have to cover as much field down there. So the decision making for us as quarterbacks is a lot more faster, it’s a lot more fast-paced. To be able to do what we did today and score touchdowns like we did is really good to see.”
Zappe went on to say that being in year two has been significant for him, as he’s “100%” more comfortable when it comes to being able to read defenses better.
“About 100% more,” said Zappe when asked about his comfort level heading into his second season. “It’s night and day difference for me. Just speaking from a defensive standpoint, being able to see defenses pre and post-snap has been kind of the biggest thing for me and I think that kind of translates to meeting with both Bills [Belichick and O’Brien], watching more film, kind of just diving into the playbook and everything and it’s kind of slowed the game down for me.”
Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports
O’Brien Impact Already Apparent
Another play that stood out on Sunday was a play where after some frustrating reps, Mac Jones made an adjustment just before the snap on a play where the defense sent a blitz as safety Jalen Mills came bearing down from the left side.
On the play, Jones had called a quick pass to second-year running back Kevin Harris, who took the ball in for the touchdown.
Plays like that seemed to be what was missing last season, as one of the things that was reported this offseason was the frustration that was voiced by players in 2022 who felt they didn’t have enough answers for various situations they dealt with at certain points last season under Matt Patricia.
But the biggest thing that’s stood out is the pace of the playcalling, the adjustments, and just the rhythm of how they’ve been working. There doesn’t seem to be as much thinking this time around. Instead, Jones looks closer to the player we saw in 2021 where he’s just reading and reacting, which has been a key difference.
While it hasn’t necessarily been perfect at times this preseason, the comfort level for Jones seems to be significantly better from where it was at this point last year.
He talked about that last week, and it’s certainly apparent that what they’re doing is a giant step forward.
“I’m just trying to try new things in the offseason, but once I come out here and once we come out here as a team, at the end of the day you’re running through these plays trying to just get a feel for them,” said Jones. “You’re obviously going to try some new things, but you want to come out and play free. That’s the biggest thing, is don’t overthink anything and just go out there and play the game that we know.”
Jonathan Jones Remains Consistent
One of the New England Patriots most consistent players the last couple of seasons has been defensive back Jonathan Jones, with the veteran having agreed to a contract extension this past offseason to keep New England’s nucleus intact for the foreseeable future.
Jones has continued his solid play during training camp, with one of the reasons for Mac Jones’ difficulties so far centering on the fact that he’s going up against some extremely competitive reps and Jones has certainly played a role there.
The veteran cornerback is among the Patriots most athletic players, with Jones getting reps at various spots so far in camp as the team continues preparing for the upcoming season.
With players not yet in pads, Jones has enjoyed working on their red zone defense, which he said has definitely been productive.
“I think it’s always a good plays to start,” said Jones recently. “A lot of points are scored there, games are won and lost in the red zone so it’s a good place for us to start focusing on, especially since we’re not in pads. Something that’s more of a finesse area/quick area. So just a good place to start.”
Douglas is off to a solid start. (PHOTO: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports)
Douglas Continues to Impress
Another name who has stood out has been rookie sixth-round pick Demario Douglas, who has continued getting reps among the first team players.
The former standout from Liberty has made a few plays so far in training camp, with the rookie seemingly with a shot at potentially landing a spot at the bottom of the Patriots depth chart.
Belichick was asked about Douglas on Sunday and he’s pleased with what he’s seen thus far, although he said there’s clearly a long way still to go.
“Yeah, Douglas had a good spring and he’s followed it up with a few couple good practices here,” said Belichick. “Again, training camp is a marathon, it’s not a 100-yard dash. So, just keep grinding them together day after day.”
“We’ve been in the red area. We’ll move out into the field and then we’ll get into third downs, start putting it all together. Pads haven’t been on yet, so that’s part of the evaluation for everybody, so we’ll see. Everybody has got a long way to go, but we’re making progress, guys are working hard, you know, we are getting better. So, we’ll see where it goes.”
Offseason Award Winners
Field Yates of ESPN revealed the Patriots offseason award winners, with 12 players landing on that list. Those names included C David Andrews, LB Ja’Whaun Bentley, LB Chris Board, DB Myles Bryant, TE Hunter Henry, TE Mike Gesicki, QB Mac Jones, S Jabrill Peppers, OL Cole Strange, ST Brendan Schooler, ST Matthew Slater, and DL Deatrich Wise earning the honors.
“We take input from all the coaching staff members,” said Belichick on how those players were selected. “The strength staff, conditioning, on the field, meeting rooms, classroom, leadership, so a little bit of everything.”
When asked if it was attendance based, Belichick said it was both that, and some other factors.
“That’s a factor, yeah,” said Belichick. “Participation is a factor, sure. All those things are all kind of taken into consideration. Kind of nominate the guys and pick the ones that we think are most deserving. There’s a lot of guys that had great offseasons. I wouldn’t limit it to our offseason award winners, but they stood out.”
Posted Under: Patriots News