Mike ReeseESPN staff writer3 minutes to read
Foxborough, Massachusetts – New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick praised the improvement of quarterback Mac Jones ahead of Sunday’s season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles, while leaving the door open on who might serve as his best backup.
“Mack had a good season and had a really good camp,” Belichick said in a video conference Monday morning. “He understands the offense — how it works, how to get his teammates involved, how to help them be productive. So he’s had a really good stretch here; he’s been consistent the whole way.”
Belichick also told WEEI Sports Radio that Jones is in “excellent physical condition,” has “made a lot of improvement in his reads, decision-making and timing,” and that he is “looking forward to the season with Mack.”
Those were crucial words coming from Belichick, who noted at the beginning of training camp how every player on the roster — including Jones — was vying for a starting role.
As it turned out, Belichick kept only Jones at quarterback on the team’s initial 53-man roster last week, waiving his primary competition, Billy Zappe, and undrafted free agent Malik Cunningham.
The Patriots brought Zappi and Cunningham back to the practice squad a day later, with Belichick explaining his thinking on Zappi publicly for the first time on Monday by saying: “All roster decisions are based on what we feel is best for our football team, so there are a number of things involved here. “We are delighted to have Billy, who will continue to work with him, and he still believes he is a good player and a young man on the rise.”
The Patriots also claimed second-year quarterback Matt Corral on waivers from the Carolina Panthers last Thursday, placing him on the 53-man roster.
While Corral is technically ahead of Zappe on the depth chart by being on the 53-man roster, Belichick said he’s not sure if Corral will be ready for the No. 2 duties in the opener.
“He’s not on the field yet, so we’ll see,” Belichick said before the team’s practice Monday afternoon.
“Matt was available, and we’ll add him to the group and see how it goes. And based on what we saw in Carolina and going back to college film at Mississippi, he’s a player we wanted to work with.”
The Patriots have the option of elevating Zabi from the practice squad for Sunday’s opener as the No. 2 option, and under the NFL’s new rules for third-string quarterbacks, he could make Corral the No. 3 emergency option and not count him against the 47-max gameday roster (or 48 If the team activates at least 8 offensive linemen).
“Infuriatingly humble internet trailblazer. Twitter buff. Beer nerd. Bacon scholar. Coffee practitioner.”