The curious case of rookie QB Bailey Zappe

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Aug. 1—FOXBOROUGH — New England Patriots rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe put on a clinic on Saturday.

No. Sorry. My bad. Not on the field, per se. Though he did have the highlight pass-catch for a touchdown play to Kristian Wilkerson for a training camp touchdown, his performance was a tad below average on Day 4.

I'm talking about his press conference.

It was as if Bill Belichick actually wrote the answers to the questions he was asked.

Q: How are you enjoying camp so far?

BZ: "I'm really enjoying it. Glad to be here and glad to be part of this organization."

Q: How do you assess your day today?

BZ: "There's always stuff to continue to work on. We're going to continue to stack days here, continue to get better every day."

Q: How are you dealing with the reps you are getting?

BZ: "Just taking advantage of your reps and when you get them. That's what everybody's doing here. Like I said, we're just trying to take it day by day, trying to get better every day as a team ... "

Q: Can you talk about the pass to Kristian Wilkerson for a touchdown?

BZ: "He made a great catch. Really good play. He's, you know, we're all trying to get better every day ... was a good catch by him."

You get the point.

Rookies are best to remain quiet, say as little as possible, especially guys "fighting" for a particular spot (possible backup), like Zappe.

While his answers were boring and Belichickian predictable, he is an interesting case as a Patriot.

As in, why is he here? As in, why would Belichick expend a fourth-round pick, usually a pick where the Patriots have found gold?

I think we all could agree the Patriots have a "potential" franchise quarterback in Mac Jones, with only one year under his belt.

Why not bring a veteran in — we can all agree Brian Hoyer is more quarterbacks coach than backup QB — just in case something happens to Mac?

Obviously, Belichick didn't believe in Jarrett Stidham, also a fourth round pick in 2019, dealing him and a seventh round pick to former Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels Raiders, for a measly sixth round pick.

Remember the last time the Patriots caught us a bit off guard with by drafting a quarterback when Jimmy Garoppolo was chosen in the second round in 2014?

Well, that apparently caught Tom Brady off guard, too, not happy seeing expensive draft capital to acquire a quarterback, seeing it, maybe, as "They're trying to replace me!"

Brady had what many call a career-changing offseason after that pick, obsessing over a perceived weakness — footwork — and Brady improved in that area exponentially en route to three more Super Bowls with the Patriots.

Was that why Zappe, ranked seventh or even higher in most NFL Draftnick assessments, was chosen as the fifth QB overall by the Patriots?

Maybe a little message to Mac that, despite the incredible amount of accolades that came his way, calling him the best rookie QB of the bunch last year, this is still Belichick's team.

Zappe did have a breakout year at Western Kentucky, transferring after four pretty good years at Houston Baptist, completing 69.2 percent of his passes, with 62 TD throws and only 11 interceptions.

Physically, though, Zappe is not going to wow anybody. In fact, he looks more like a slot receiver, just a 1/2 -inch over six feet tall, than an NFL quarterback.

He didn't wow anybody on Saturday either. He threw two really nice passes out of the dozen or so he attempted, most in the red zone, one was caught for a TD and the other should've been a TD but was knocked away by the safety.

The rest of Zappe's day with the top unit was checkdowns, a few missed rollouts, and holding onto the ball a bit too long.

But that comes with the territory for a long-shot prospect.

Zappe is noted for his accuracy, his knowledge of the offense and his pocket presence. He is also noted for average arm strength and lack of athleticism.

But you know what? Jimmy G, also a mid-major draftee, got his first two starts (both wins) in his third season when Brady was suspended for "deflating" footballs.

It's early. Zappe, who seems to be a confident young man, has a lot of work to do. One thing he didn't do on Saturday was throw an interception, which was an issue with his predecessor now in Las Vegas.

Zappe seems right at home in Foxborough. In fact, he sounds like it, too.

"A lot more and more time we continue to go over everything and the more reps, and the more times we're able to practice out here as a team and continue to practice together," said Zappe. "Just continue to get better."

Boring as hell. But ain't that the truth. and with Mac around, just like Brady, we can wait out this dude's growth.

You can email Bill Burt at bburt@eagletribune.com.