It’s been a frustrating second season both on and off the field for New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones.
Before suffering the high ankle sprain that sidelined him for the past three weeks, Jones struggled to adapt to the Patriots’ “streamlined” attack. With Matt Patricia and Joe Judge replacing Josh McDaniels as de facto offensive coordinators, Jones threw five interceptions in three games.
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Apparently those offensive changes coupled with Jones’ injury have created some tension behind the scenes in New England. Albert Breer of the MMQB says the relationship between Jones and the team has sometimes soured lately.
“I think things have gone a little sideways in the last few months,” Breer said on Patriots Pregame Live on Sunday. “I think it goes back to the change of Josh McDaniels. ‘Why are we bringing in Joe Judge and Matt Patricia while Bill O’Brien is sitting there and we could have possibly run on him? Why does it make sense to have a defensive man and a man from the special team here? Why are we changing the attack? Why are we streamlining after all the success I’ve had?” …
“I think that now spilled over into the injury and I think this has given the coaches some sort of opportunity to send a message to Mac. I don’t think Mac was ever in danger of losing his job, but I don’t think that they told Mac that too. I don’t think they said to Mac, ‘Listen, you’re good, don’t worry about how Bailey Zappe plays.’
Zappe hasn’t improved the box score since he replaced Jones, but the rookie has done his part to give his team a chance to win. He forced overtime in his first NFL appearance against the Green Bay Packers, then helped the Patriots to a 29-0 win over the Detroit Lions in his first career start. His only turnover in the two games was an interception that bounced off the hands of wide receiver Nelson Agholor.
Jones is expected to resume his role as starting QB when he is healthy, but head coach Bill Belichick would not commit to that during his recent press conference.
“We’ll see where he is,” Belichick said. “I don’t know.”
Breer believes Belichick and the Patriots are using this as an opportunity to send a message to their first-rounder in 2021.
“This is an opportunity for them to send the message to Mac that you need to do things better,” Breer added. “Like, if you trust the offense, see what the offense does for this fourth round out of western Kentucky. We saw early in the year he did some freelance work, he took shots in the field, we saw the turnover issue. I think that “Part of the message here is, watch what Bailey Zappe does. He does what we tell him to do, and see how the offense works for him.”
Zappe again took over for Jones in Sunday’s Week 6 game against the Cleveland Browns. It will be worth keeping an eye on the Patriots QB’s situation leading up to the team’s Monday Night Football game against the Chicago Bears.