Mac Jones operating without a net in New England

QBs Bailey Zappe, Malik Cunningham were cut, signed to practice squad

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Mac Jones is not just QB1 for New England — he’s the only signal-caller on the roster
Mac Jones is not just QB1 for New England — he’s the only signal-caller on the roster
Photo: George Walker IV (AP)

For the second consecutive season, the New England Patriots are taking an unconventional approach to their quarterback room. A year after letting Matt Patricia and Joe Judge do some on-the-job learning as co-offensive coordinators, the team cut backup quarterbacks Bailey Zappe and Malik Cunningham. Even though the organization hopes to retain them on the practice squad, they have to clear waivers, leaving Mac Jones as the sole quarterback on the roster.

Update: The Pats have signed Zappe and Cunningham to the practice squad.

After a dalliance with Zappe under center during Jones’ injury, and the team’s offensive struggles in 2022, the Mac-churian Candidate has the gig all to himself. It’s curious because New England has a new playcaller in Bill O’Brien, and theoretically a new offense, as well. While any structure and competence is an improvement over Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumb, we didn’t see much of Jones in the preseason at all.


This wouldn’t be a big deal for an established quarterback, or even a journeyman, but Jones is coming off a year in which he regressed mightily. Again, not all his fault, and O’Brien has loads of experience to help out his third-year QB, yet it’s a weird vibe.

Jones and O’Brien met briefly while one was offboarding and the other was onboarding in Tuscaloosa, and the signal caller was reportedly happy about an official working relationship in Foxborough when it was announced. So, why can’t we see it? Let it rip.


Jones went 6-of-9 for 52 yards, getting sacked twice, in his very limited preseason work, and perhaps that was by design for Bill Belichick who has always enjoyed a little gamesmanship. Far be it for me to question the Hoodie’s methods…

At the same time, this is the guy who OK’d the Patricia-Judge combo, which set back his young quarterback for at least a season, and has made some out-of-character front-office moves even for Belichick.

JuJu Smith-Schuster, DeVante Parker, and Hunter Henry head up a group of pass catchers that excite literally no one. Rhamondre Stevenson is a beast of a running back, and he’ll need to be with the corpse of Ezekiel Elliot serving as the resident backup. Oh, and the offensive line allowed 11 sacks in three warm-up games.

Despite missing three games in 2022, only 10 other QBs were sacked more than Jones (34). Yes, that was last year, and this is only preseason, but at some point, we need to see the Mac Jones of two to three seasons ago to verify that he still exists. Until then, it might not be the worst idea for the Patriots to have at least one reserve quarterback on the roster.