So far this preseason, it’s been New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones leading the way with the first team during New England’s offensive snaps, while Bailey Zappe has consistently been taking snaps behind him with the second team.
Up until this week, neither player had necessarily been outstanding, with both struggling during moments when the club began red zone work to kick off training camp.
Jones had been slightly better, while Zappe started to settle in a bit more after what was a terrific showing on Sunday. But the overall pace of practice and the personnel groupings has basically made it appear like it’s been Jones’ job to lose.
That said, it sounds like Belichick has been pleased enough with Zappe’s recent turnaround that he’s going to let the second-year quarterback keep pushing Jones to stay on top of his game. While Belichick hasn’t come out and said it, after backing Jones back in April for what was essentially the first time all offseason, he’s since turned back the other way given his recent remarks this week.
“I mean, look, Mac’s been our quarterback for two years,” said Belichick when asked if Jones was his quarterback back on April 28th. “As I tell the team every year, each player, each coach, we all have to re-establish and prove ourselves every year. That’s what this league is. So that’s for all of us. 2023 is 2023 and we’ll see how it goes.”
Now here he is barely a week into training camp, and it looks like he’s decided to let things simply play out between the two signal-callers.
Belichick appeared on Sirius XM Radio this week with Pat Kirwin and Jim Miller and had some interesting comments as he talked about his quarterbacks.
“Mac’s had a good offseason,” said Belichick via Andrew Callahan of the Boston Herald. “He was one o four offseason award winners. First in, last out of the building. Really does a good job of knowing, being on top of everything we’re doing so he can lead from the quarterback position, in terms of play-calling and those types of things.”
“Zappe’s way ahead of where he was last year, Pat [Kirwan], you talked about that; rookie going into his second year. And it’s been good to work with [Trace] McSorely. He has a little bit of game experience, little bit of NFL experience but is still a young player. So we’ll see how those guys do when the real football starts, the pads come on, there’s a little more pass rush and so forth.”
“But they can all run the offense efficiently. They’re all smart. They all handle what we do so everyone else can operate efficiently. So we’ll give them a chance to compete and see how it goes.”
That last sentence obviously infers the door remains open with enough of a crack that Zappe could potentially supplant Jones if the third-year quarterback somehow comes up short.
Zappe has started settling in at training camp. (PHOTO: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports)
Zappe certainly appears to be confident. Zappe agreed with Belichick’s assessment of his progress, admitting that his second training camp has been a completely different experience compared to a year ago.
“About 100% more,” said Zappe when asked about his comfort level this preseason. “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.”
Belichick has clearly taken notice, and it could be why he changed his stance during the interview.
News of his comments obviously were caught by the media, with the head coach asked again about it on Tuesday. Once again, he didn’t back Jones or give him a reason to believe he’ll 100% be the week one starter when they take on the Philadelphia Eagles just over a month from now at Gillette Stadium on September 10th.
“Everybody is out here competing, all 90 guys,” said Belichick when asked about his comments. “That’s what we’re all here for is to go out and compete.”
He was then asked if Jones was his day one starter, and Belichick cut off the question and essentially repeated the same comment.
“Everybody is out here competing,” he said. “Everybody is out here competing. That’s what everybody is doing.”
Context is everything but the way he responded, it both dismissed the question yet it still sounded like he’s fine letting things be settled on the field.
Needless to say, although it may take a string of solid performances by Zappe to unseat Jones, the opportunity appears to be there for Zappe if he can continue pushing and somehow overtake his fellow quarterback over these next few weeks.
While that may seem like a longshot, Belichick doesn’t seem set to hand anything over at this point, which will push both guys to be at their best every day.
That’s definitely not a bad thing. Especially for an offense that will need whoever is under center to play at a better level after what we saw last season.
It’s obviously a pivotal year for both Jones and Belichick, who each will see their respective futures potentially decided by how things turn out in 2023.
For now, judging by Belichick’s comments, it should be an interesting few weeks as we continue seeing how it all unfolds.
Posted Under: Patriots News