FOXBORO, Mass. — Bill Belichick isn’t saying much about the New England Patriots’ plan at quarterback for this Sunday’s matchup with the Cleveland Browns.
Neither is one of his potential starters.
Bailey Zappe, who steered the Patriots to a 29-0 win over the Detroit Lions last week in his first NFL start, was tight-lipped Wednesday when asked about his Week 6 expectations.
“I’m preparing to do what my coaches tell me I’m supposed to be doing,” Zappe said, “and right now that’s to take practice reps and do everything I can to help the team.”
Usual starter Mac Jones has missed the last two games as he recovers from a high ankle sprain suffered late in New England’s Week 3 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Jones has participated in each of the Patriots’ last four practices — albeit in a limited capacity — and showed improved mobility during the open media portion of Wednesday’s session. Zappe, though, worked with the offensive line during an early sled drill — a responsibility the expected starting QB typically handles.
ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler on Wednesday reported Jones has a “decent chance” to play against Cleveland, though similar reports circulated ahead of each of the last two games and Jones ultimately was ruled out.
“That’s a question for Coach (Bill) Belichick,” Zappe said when asked whether Jones was more involved in Wednesday’s practice. “… I’m just taking advantage of the reps that they give me.”
“We’ll see” was Belichick’s go-to line Wednesday morning when asked about the Patriots’ QB situation.
Zappe has played well in Jones’ absence, nearly pulling off a road upset in Green Bay after relieving injured backup Brian Hoyer and then putting forth an efficient performance against Detroit. He was 17-for-21 for 188 yards and one touchdown against the Lions, and his one interception came on a pass Nelson Agholor dropped.
The fourth-round rookie acknowledged the Patriots opened up more of the playbook for him in his second appearance after running a simplified, run-heavy offense against the Packers. He still was helped along by a powerful, Rhamondre Stevenson-led run game, an O-line that allowed just two pressures and a Detroit defense that ranks among the NFL’s worst.
“I guess that comes with more and more reps, especially with everybody,” Zappe said. “As the weeks go on, you continue to grow your playbook, continue to grow. Whether it’s the open field, red area — whatever you have to do to win games.”
Zappe mentioned reading and recognizing coverages, both before and after the snap, as an area of his game that he’s looking to improve. Asked whether the NFL was what he expected it would be, the Western Kentucky product replied: “100 percent.”
“It takes a lot of work,” Zappe said. “You’ve got to be here early, stay late. I love the game of football, I love watching film, I love learning the game of football, so this stuff is fun for me.”
Zappe is the first third-string Patriots quarterback to start a game since 2016, when Tom Brady’s Deflategate suspension and a Jimmy Garoppolo shoulder injury forced the team to start rookie third-rounder Jacoby Brissett for two weeks. Coincidentally, the Patriots will face Brissett this weekend, as he’s currently filling in for suspended Browns starter Deshaun Watson.