If reports are accurate, the fever that has been gripping New England for nearly three weeks is about to break as it appears Bailey Zappe will be replaced by Mac Jones on Monday when the Patriots take on the Chicago Bears.
Despite Zappe guiding the Patriots (3-3) to two straight wins and handling himself quite nicely when he went from third-stringer to QB 1 against the Green Bay Packers in a Week 4 defeat when Jones and backup Brian Hoyer were lost to injury, the rookie fourth-round pick will likely be heading back to the bench for Monday Night Football as Jones expects to be “available,” according to an ESPN report published early Thursday.
“Jones, who has been inactive the past three games, has told teammates his recovery from a high left ankle sprain he suffered Sept. 25 has progressed, with a final hurdle to be cleared in practice,” per ESPN. “The Patriots’ first practice of the week is scheduled for Thursday.”
Phil Perry, who covers the Patriots for NBC Sports Boston, had a similar report. “My understanding is that Mac Jones’ injury was deemed a 4-6 week issue,” he wrote on Twitter. “Bears game would be 4 weeks and 1 day from when he was hurt. MNF would be on the aggressive end of that return timeline, but the ankle has shown steady improvement, per source. Expectation is he’ll be ready.”
Other Boston beat reporters had similar takes early Thursday.
Predictably, New England coach Bill Belichick has been tight-lipped about who his starting quarterback will be moving forward and has deflected questions about Jones’ status, but it appears he is leaning towards going back to the player he selected with the No. 15 overall pick last year despite the fact he has clearly been outplayed by Zappe thus far this season. Part of the reason for the potential switch may be that Jones is lobbying to play behind the scenes in a reworked offense. “A source indicated that Jones would welcome a middle ground between the aggressive approach New England was using with him at quarterback and the safer and more efficient plays Zappe has been running,” Doug Kyed wrote for Pro Football Focus. “More play action, in particular, would benefit Jones.”
It’s shaping up to be a risk/reward situation because if Belichick goes back to Jones and he implodes against an inferior Bears team (2-4) on national television in Week 7, look out below as that would then introduce the debate of switching back to Zappe with a tough road matchup against the hated New York Jets (4-2) on tap for Week 8.
If Belichick does decide to make a quarterback change against the Bears, fans are certainly going to be split about the decision to end Zappe fever by rolling out a maccinated Mac Jones on Monday night.
Even if they can’t tell the two quarterbacks apart.
(Zappe, who probably deserves to keep starting until he stumbles, is on left.)