Bailey Zappe might make first career start with Mac Jones, Brian Hoyer ‘unlikely’ to play


Life is coming at Patriots rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe pretty fast.

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A few short weeks ago, he was running scout teams as the No. 3 quarterback on the roster. Now, he's preparing to possibly make his first NFL start at the end of this week due to a slew of injuries to counterparts Mac Jones and Brian Hoyer.

Jones, who suffered a high ankle sprain in a loss to the Baltimore Ravens, might be farther away from returning to the field than he and the Patriots had hoped, according to a report from ESPN's Dan Graziano Wednesday morning. Combined with Hoyer leaving last Sunday's game against the Packers with a concussion in the first quarter, and Zappe, who played the rest of the game, and newly signed practice squad quarterback Garrett Gilbert are the only healthy players at the position for the Patriots.

"This time last week, there was some hope in the Patriots’ building that Mac Jones might be able to tough out his ankle injury and play in Week 4. That hope turned out to be misplaced, and checking in there this week it sounds as if Jones is unlikely to play in Week 5 as well," Graziano wrote.

This perhaps doesn't refute the notion that Jones' high ankle sprain was "less severe" than originally reported on its own. But it's clearly not a minor injury, either, and it makes the visual of Jones standing around at Friday's practice for the media availability portion look even sillier.

Then, with the increased scrutiny around concussions following Tua Tagovailoa's traumatizing head injury last week, the Patriots might not feel inclined to rush Hoyer back onto the field just yet even if he does clear protocols.

That could mean Zappe gets a whole week of No. 1 reps at quarterback this week after being thrown into action mid-game and spending much of it in survival mode.

"'It wasn’t too big for him,' is what I’m hearing from the Patriots about Zappe’s performance in relief of Hoyer against the Packers last week," Graziano wrote.

Zappe certainly handled his trial-by-fire as well as could be expected if not a bit better, leading two second-half touchdown drives to give the Patriots brief leads they'd later relinquish.

Still, his performance was far from clean and required a lot of protection from the running game and short-passing attack -- only three of Zappe's completed throws traveled farther than 10 yards.

With a full week of practice, the fourth-round rookie could show some improvement against a soft Detroit Lions defense that has given up 27 or more points in every game they've played this year. But it wouldn't be wise to suggest he could do much to permanently win the starting job once Mac Jones returns to action.

Until that happens, though, it might well remain Zappe Time in Foxborough.