Losers of two of their first three games heading into a Week 4 matchup with the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on Sunday afternoon, the New England Patriots are likely to be without starting quarterback Mac Jones for the foreseeable future due to a severe ankle injury he suffered in a Week 3 loss to the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium.
Though no official timeline about how long Jones will be out of action has been released and the Patriots are still acting as if it is possible he’ll suit up on Sunday in Green Bay, it seems very likely he could be out until New England’s bye week in Week 10, if not longer.
For the Patriots, who are already not a very good football team, and Jones, who may not be a good NFL quarterback, this is a worst-case scenario because it hurts both parties in both the short- and long-term.
With Jones sidelined, the Patriots will have to turn to veteran backup Brian Hoyer or rookie Bailey Zappe and neither one is a very appealing option. Hoyer will likely be the first man up thanks to his experience and knowledge of the offense, but he’s lost 11 straight games as a starter dating back to 2016 and offers virtually no upside. As for Zappe, the fourth-round rookie appeared mediocre at best during the preseason and did not look ready to run an NFL offense. Either way, things are not looking good for a team that had designs on improving on last season’s 10-7 record.
Perhaps even more painful than being without Jones when it comes to wins and losses will be missing the opportunity to have him out on the field in order to evaluate whether he’s got the tools and makeup to be a franchise quarterback. A Pro Bowler as a rookie (as a replacement), Jones has not impressed through three games thus far and already has five interceptions and a lost fumble. As much as the Patriots need Jones on the field to win games, New England has to see Jones under center now in order to determine if he’s the quarterback for the future as the jury is still very much out on that topic. Missing extended time doesn’t do Jones any favors either as he is eligible for a lucrative contract extension following next season and there is little chance he’ll get one without proving he’s got the goods. The Patriots didn’t pay Tom Brady after he’d won six Super Bowls. Think they’ll pay Jones?
After their trip to Lambeau Field on Sunday, the Patriots’ next seven games will come against the Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns, Chicago Bears, New York Jets, Indianapolis Colts, Jets (again) and Minnesota Vikings. It’s a manageable stretch if Hoyer (or Zappe) can play at an adequate level so the season may not be completely lost for New England. But if Jones ends up missing substantial time and does not get to play in meaningful games once he returns, the season will be a loss for the Patriots no matter what their final record is as the team will head into next year without knowing if they have a franchise quarterback or not.