Did the New England Patriots add some competition to its quarterback room?
Perhaps they did by selecting Bailey Zappe this afternoon in the fourth round of the 2022 National Football League (NFL) Draft.
Zappe quarterbacked Western Kentucky University last fall to a 9-5 overall record while establishing new single-season FBS records for passing yards (5,967) and touchdowns (62).
The 62 touchdown passes erased the original mark of 60, which was established by Joe Burrow in 2019.
Prior to becoming the quarterback at Western Kentucky, Zappe was spotted under center for three seasons (2018, 2019, and 2020) at Houston Baptist University, but elected to transfer after the Huskies’ 2020 season concluded after four games.
The team elected to not compete in the Southland Conference’s spring season.
Zappe, who was selected with the 137th pick, may not be the flashiest quarterback selected in this year’s NFL Draft. However, he certainly seems to fit the “Patriot mold” given the squad may need an extra arm if Mac Jones were to get injured. Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham are still on the roster, but it is possible one or both quarterbacks may not make the final cut.
The Victoria, Texas native is not the biggest signal-caller or has the arm strength of North Carolina’s Sam Howell, but he does throw a “catchable ball” that should create some explosive plays. Zappe led all FBS signal-callers last fall in completions (51) and yards (1,805) on deep passes and could certainly develop into a capable backup quarterback.
With drafting Zappe, it’s possible Jarrett Stidham’s time in New England could be coming to an end. The 2019 draftee, who has played eight games for the Patriots, could be a valuable target for some teams looking for a younger backup quarterback.
As of this afternoon, it seems likely that Brian Hoyer would step in if Mac Jones were to get injured.
Ah, the National Football League’s (NFL) second season has arrived – are you ready for playoff football?
I am and hope you are, as well!
With the Wild Card round set to begin tomorrow — that would be Saturday, January 15, 2022, with a pair of games, — it is time to share some thoughts on all six matchups, as well as make some picks.
As usual, let us know what you think (of what I predicted below) with a comment or connect with us on social media.
Enjoy the games and make sure to circle back for more football (and maybe, some non-football content?) throughout the weekend.
Las Vegas Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals (Saturday, Jan. 15 at 4:30 p.m.): Earlier this year, I thought the Silver and Black were going to be one of the toughest teams to beat, especially in the postseason. And despite winning four straight contests, including an-end-of season win against the Los Angeles Chargers, I don’t think their momentum will travel with them to Ohio where quarterback Joe Burrow and the Bengals will be able to score the franchise’s first postseason win since January 6, 1991, against the Houston Oilers. PREDICTION: Cincinnati 30, Las Vegas 20
New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills (Saturday, January 15 at 8:15 p.m.): Quarterback Mac Jones exceeded expectations — he played much better than I thought he would as a first-time professional starter. Yet, the former University of Alabama signal-caller has hit the “rookie wall,” which makes me think that these Patriots will have a tough time keeping up with Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills. PREDICTION: Buffalo 25, New England 13
Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Sunday, January 16 at 1 p.m.): Somewhere, Doug Pederson is smiling as his former team somehow secured a playoff spot with an unknown first-year coach named Nick Sirianni. As a Dallas Cowboys fan, I have been impressed with what Sirianni and his staff have been able to accomplish this season — hey, they’re a pretty good running team! But unfortunately, I don’t think this particular Eagles squad will be able to keep pace with Tom Brady and the Buccaneers on Sunday. Had this matchup pitted the 2017 Eagles against the 2021 Buccaneers, then I would have picked Philadelphia. PREDICTION: Tampa Bay 28, Philadelphia 17
San Francisco at Dallas Cowboys (Sunday, January 16 at 4:30 p.m.): The last time these two teams met, the 49ers beat the Cowboys in the 1994 NFC Championship Game en route to winning Super Bowl XXIX. Could a win on Sunday provide the winning team with the necessary momentum to capture the title next month? It’s possible, but in the end, the team that makes fewer mistakes will win this particular matchup. And as a Cowboys fan, I believe this particular Dallas squad will be ready to make one — maybe two or three more plays than San Francisco to win Sunday’s meeting. PREDICTION: Dallas 28, San Francisco 27
Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs (Sunday, January 16 at 8:15 p.m.): Earlier this week, I picked the Chiefs because they will be at home. But these are not the same Chiefs from 2018, 2019, and 2020. I think they’re vulnerable. Additionally, I think the Steelers defense will pose problems for Patrick Mahomes. So, I am taking the road team in an exciting upset win — why not? PREDICTION: Pittsburgh 20, Kansas City 18
Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams (Monday, January 17 at 8:15 p.m.): When the Cardinals defeated the Cowboys two weeks ago, it seemed as if their late-season slide was over. But last week, they fell to the Seattle Seahawks in their regular-season finale to secure a matchup with the Los Angeles Rams next Monday. Quarterback Kyler Murray has been inconsistent over the last few weeks. He looked like he was going to have an amazing season in September, but between his up-and-down play, along with some not-so-great plays by the offense and defense over the last few weeks, it would be hard to pick them to beat the Rams. PREDICTION: Los Angeles 30, Arizona 24
Jones has the potential — well, more the skillsets, to be exact — to be the team’s starting quarterback in week one. However, for the Jacksonville, Florida native to secure the starting gig, he will need to outperform Cam Newton, who is entering his second season with the Patriots after starting 15 games last fall.
“Our goal is to win,” said Jones, who quarterbacked the University of Alabama to a national championship earlier this year against Ohio State. “I guess they’re going to obviously play the best player and that’s going to be whoever it may be, but I’m just here to work.”
Competing for the top spot on the depth chart is nothing new to Jones, who has experienced numerous camp battles over the years at both TheBolles School and Alabama. He competed with two current NFL quarterbacks in Tuscaloosa for the starting role, including Tua Tagovailoa, whom he replaced down the stretch of the 2019 season when the current Miami Dolphins signal-caller suffered a season-ending injury against Mississippi State.
His experience in both 2019, as well as last fall, should position him well to possibly snag the team’s starting role. But as the first-year signal-caller explained, “I’ve got to get better (because) I’m young and I know that, and I have to produce on the field and do exactly what I’m supposed to do on each play and fix every problem. So, if I can do that then things will work out.”
Indeed, things could work out for Jones, who certainly has aspirations to lead the Patriots this fall. But as many believe (or think?), we’ll gain a better understanding of how Jones operates the offense when the team competes later this summer in a trio of preseason games, along with a pair of joint practices with the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles.
“Every day is a new day,” said Jones. “I’m going to have bad days and I’m going to have good days, and we’re all going to get better together. And when I’m in there, I’m going to do what I’m supposed to do, and everyone else is going to do what they’re supposed to do.”
Like many, I am excited to see how some of the team’s offseason signings mesh with members of last year’s squad, including quarterback Cam Newton, who will enter the team’s 2021 training camp on Wednesday, July 28 as the favorite to be spotted under center in week one against the Miami Dolphins.
Newton did not have a great 2020 season — I think many know that or are aware of how he performed last fall. But coach Bill Belichick has acquired some solid pieces for the offense over the past few months, including tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith. Both players should certainly help Newton, as well as the offense, perform even better than they did last season — New England won just seven games in 2020 but had a chance to squeak out a few more victories had things gone their way down the stretch, especially against the Buffalo Bills in New York.
Like Newton, Jones competed in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) — Jones played at Alabama while Newton competed at Auburn — and should be ready to take the reigns from the league’s most valuable player in 2015.
Jones led the Crimson Tide to a national championship in January — Alabama rolled past Ohio State, 52-24, in the College Football Playoff National Championship contest, which was held in Miami Gardens, Florida — and recorded career-highs in completions (311), passing yards (4,500), and touchdowns (41). And despite seeing limited action in 2018 and 2019, Jones should be able to translate his junior season’s success to the NFL this summer and fall.
Selected in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Stidham has competed in eight games since becoming a member of the Patriots organization, including five contests last season. The former Auburn signal-caller completed 22 of 44 passes for a career and season-high 250 yards and two touchdowns. He did, however, throw three interceptions compared to one in 2019.
Numerous talking heads, along with various analysts believe Mac Jones could be the starter in the opening week, but it will all depend on how he handles himself during in-game situations. As Patriots.com’s Mike Dussault explains, “Every throw of 11-on-11 work will be dissected ad nauseam, but the bottom line is whether or not Jones or Stidham do enough to dethrone Newton, and can Newton hold them off by taking significant strides in his second year in the offense.”
For now, my bet is Cam Newton will be the starter in the opening week, but I do think Patriots fans will see Mac Jones under center at some point this fall — maybe against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in week four? I am not sure if week four is when Jones will be thrusted into the lineup, but we’ll certainly learn more about his readiness when the Patriots scrimmage the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles later this summer. Those inter-squad practices will help us identify which quarterback(s) is ready to lead the hometown team to hopefully a postseason appearance next January.