The air in Foxborough was rife with whispers of a brewing quarterback competition as training camp kicked off. However, as the days passed, Mac Jones emerged as the undeniable starter for the New England Patriots, overshadowing Bailey Zappe's commendable mid-season performance in 2022.
Zappe stepped in for an injured Mac Jones and Brian Hoyer last year, delivering a solid run. Yet, this preseason, his presence seemed diminished, getting fewer first-team snaps. His inconsistent play only sealed his fate on the practice squad.
On WEEI's 'The Greg Hill Show', Patriots' head coach Bill Belichick lauded Jones. “Mac’s consistency throughout spring and camp was commendable. His impeccable physical condition, coupled with improvements in decision-making and timing, makes him the standout choice for the upcoming season,” Belichick remarked.
Mac Jones Excels in O’Brien's Playbook
Jones's finesse was evident even in the limited preseason action, as he effortlessly maneuvered through Bill O’Brien's updated offensive structure. O’Brien's playbook, rich with RPOs, screens, and short passes, complements Jones's proficiency as a precise passer.
Jones had an astounding 77% completion rate, with just four interceptions during full-team drills, as highlighted by MassLive.com. While Jones flourished, Zappe found it challenging in O’Brien's system. Despite his promising performance last fall, his recent lacklustre stats during the Patriots-Titans preseason finale and a 64% completion rate with seven interceptions over the summer led to his exclusion from the main 53-man roster.
This decision surprised many in the NFL circles. When quizzed about Zappe's exclusion, Belichick stated, “Every decision reflects what's best for our team. While waiving Zappe was tough, we believe in his potential and will closely monitor his progress on the practice squad”.
Amidst this, Matt Corral's acquisition from the Panthers hints at him being a potential backup. “Corral has shown great promise at Mississippi. Despite injury setbacks, his commendable preseason makes him an exciting addition,” said Belichick.
However, the backup role isn't a given. As per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, “While Zappe's familiarity with the offence might give him an edge, Corral's addition makes the backup position an intriguing competition”.
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