Belichick opens up on Patriots quarterback battle between Jones and Zappe

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New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick says Bailey Zappe and Mac Jones are competing for the starting quarterback role. (Image: John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick says Bailey Zappe and Mac Jones are competing for the starting quarterback role. (Image: John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has declined the chance to confirm Mac Jones is his starting signal-caller ahead of the new season, opening the door to a quarterback competition.

After a promising rookie year in 2021, last season saw former first-round pick Jones regress significantly, with his passer rating falling from 92.5 to 84.8 as the offense failed to generate any positive momentum.

An injury to Jones early in the season gave his rookie backup Bailey Zappe the chance to impress and the fourth-round pick appeared competent in his two starts before Jones returned to the lineup.

But a disappointing season for 24-year-old Jones and the Pats, who missed the playoffs after finishing 8-9 – has created uncertainty in Foxborough, with time running out for former first round pick Jones to prove he is the man to take the team forward.

And Belichick has not given the Alabama alum a definitive vote of confidence ahead as the second week of training camp begins. When asked if Jones and Zappe were in an open competition for the starting role, he indicated the position remains up for grabs.

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"Everybody’s out here competing," he said. "All 90 guys. That’s what we’re all here for, to compete. Everybody’s out here competing. That’s what everybody’s doing."

Despite Belichick's lukewarm comments about the man currently atop the depth chart, it would be a huge surprise if Jones is not the man under center for the Patriots in Week 1 against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Belichick opens up on Patriots quarterback battle between Jones and ZappeMac Jones (right) is facing competition from Bailey Zappe for the New England Patriots starting quarterback role. (Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images)

But the situation remains intriguing after tension brewed between Jones and Belichick last season amid a dysfunctional coaching structure without a recognised offensive coordinator.

The return of Bill O'Brien to New England to take up that role is a welcome boost for Jones, and he will hope to benefit from a much more stable environment in the new season.

Efforts have also been made to strengthen the relationship between the head coach and quarterback after the struggles of 2022, although Belichick responded in typical fashion when asked about his relationship with Jones. "I think my relationship is good with every player," he told reporters at the team facility.

Jones, however, did offer a more detailed answer when he faced a similar question last week. He said: ""I think we're good. I think the biggest thing that we've all talked about is just having a fresh start.

"I think there's a lot of learning experiences from last year that we've talked about and this year, it's all about just working together, right?

"You've got to come up with a plan, obviously talk about it, and then execute it. So, I'm excited for that part of it."

The Pats' pre-season schedule begins on August 10 with the visit of the Houston Texans to Gillette Stadium before tune-up games against the Green Bay Packers and Tennessee Titans before Week 1.

Sam Frost

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