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The Mass Media

How will the Patriots move on without Mac Jones?

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Bianca Oppedisano
Brian Hoyer and Bailey Zappe of the New England Patriots stand next to one another. Illustration by Bianca Oppedisano / Mass Media Staff

Times are tough in Foxboro, and with the latest update on New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones, the road to the NFL playoffs has now gotten a lot tougher. Despite a dismal second-half performance that highlighted both Jones’ poor decision-making and wide receiver Nelson Agholor’s history of struggling during clutch moments after he fumbled a potential game-winning drive away, flashes were shown.
Mac, although throwing three interceptions, still rushed for a touchdown and had a solid completion percentage of 68.8 percent to go along with 321 passing yards. (1) If anything, it showed glimmers of hope for an offense that struggled the first two weeks of the season, performing at a high level even without a top receiver in Jakobi Meyers (2) and no true offensive coordinator. It was the first time this season that the Patriots showed signs of life, by playing as a competitive team in the race for the division and Lombardi trophy, with the defense looking solid and the offense improving. All those signs were prominent until disaster struck on the last offensive snap of the game.
Down by a score of 37–26 with two minutes remaining, Mac Jones threw for his third interception of the game on a ball intended for wide receiver Kendrick Bourne, who also had himself a nice game, catching four balls for 58 yards (3), even with limited snaps, something that contradicts his skillset as a top two receiver for the team. Jones’ game-ending interception was not the story of the drive though, or even the game. The injury he sustained on a hit from defensive end Calais Campbell, who landed on his left ankle, was.
Jones was seen hopping on his right leg to get off the field after overthrowing Bourne before being helped into the locker room screaming in pain. The good news of the injury? Well, there’s never any “good news” revolving around an injury, but the x-rays for Jones came back negative (4). The bad news? His MRI did not. Mac was diagnosed with a “pretty severe” high ankle sprain, which is said to be more painful than a typical ankle sprain (5), some of which require surgery. Though he may be telling teammates to “not count him out” for the Patriots’ upcoming game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau field, it looks like Jones may be out for a while, with backup quarterback Brian Hoyer taking the starting role, and rookie QB Bailey Zappe filling in for the backup role (6).
Though, in this case, is starting Hoyer the move for the Patriots moving forward? Over his last 11 starts, Hoyer has not won a football game (7); meanwhile, the rookie, Zappe, is coming off a stellar season with Western Kentucky, breaking an NCAA record by throwing for 5,967 yards with 62 touchdowns, compared to only 11 interceptions in a 14 game span (8).
As a player for a Division 1AA school, Zappe played three power five colleges over three weeks, going up against Army, Indiana and Michigan State, where he threw for nine touchdowns and only one interception during that span, with 1288 yards. His best game came against Michigan State, who. mind you. ended up ranking ninth in the country at the end of last season, where he threw for 488 yards and three touchdowns (9).
Zappe led the Hilltoppers to a bowl win, who, as a team, ranked second out of the 130 team association in points per game, with 44.2. Fans may be skeptical, with him sporting a 9–5 record, which isn’t all that appealing, but Western Kentucky’s defense can take major accountability for that, ranking 92nd out of the 130 teams in points allowed per game, with 29.4 (10).
If there’s one thing to know about Bailey Zappe, it’s that there can definitely be some untapped potential there, so why not give him a shot against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers? The biggest argument is that Hoyer has more experience and has been with the Patriots long enough to open the playbook more than Zappe. But with Hoyer’s recent struggles as a starter, it may be a high risk, high reward move to give the rookie a shot as the season dwindles down.
For the first three-quarters of their game against the Baltimore Ravens, Patriots football looked like it was back, and the offense was thriving and driving downfield with the help of Mac Jones’ connection with newly acquired wide receiver Devante Parker. Parker was scrutinized during the first two weeks of the season for his lack of production in the offense, after being a perennial number one target in his seven seasons with the Miami Dolphins. He silenced his critics though, hauling in five catches for 156 yards, which is impressive, to say the least. Here’s to hoping he gets more targets moving forward and plays as great as he did in the Patriots’ game against the Ravens, and in years past.
As for the QB situation, starting Hoyer may be a safer route, with a skillful offense built around it, but with a talent like Zappe, it may be time to shift toward playing the rookie with nothing to lose, until Mac Jones comes back. If worse comes to worst, Zappe could not play up to standards and he can be benched for Hoyer, who knows the playbook and has experience as a starter. If it plays out with Zappe getting a shot and running with it by outperforming Hoyer and earning a starting role, Patriots fans may be in for a surprise with a talented backup quarterback that can take the wheel and keep the team in the playoff hunt until Mac comes back. In Bill we trust?

  1. Mac Jones Stats, News, Bio | ESPN
  2. Jakobi Meyers injury: Patriots WR not expected to play vs. Ravens (report) (msn.com)
  3. Kendrick Bourne Stats, News, Bio | ESPN
  4. Patriots QB Mac Jones gets a big injury update after undergoing x-rays (usatoday.com)
  5. Mac Jones injury: Patriots QB has ‘pretty severe’ high ankle sprain, per report (yahoo.com)
  6. Patriots’ Mac Jones telling teammates he may play in Week 4 vs. Packers despite ankle injury, per report (msn.com)
  7. A closer look at Brian Hoyer’s streak of 11 straight losses (msn.com)
  8. Bailey Zappe College Stats | College Football at Sports-Reference.com
  9. Bailey Zappe 2021 Game Log | College Football at Sports-Reference.com
  10. 2021 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers Stats | College Football at Sports-Reference.com
  11.  DeVante Parker Stats, News, Bio | ESPN
About the Contributors
Nick Collins, Sports Editor
Bianca Oppedisano, Illustrator