The Morning After: Youth injects life into the Patriots’ season
The New England Patriots fell to the Green Bay Packers 27-24 in overtime at Lambeau field. It was a surprisingly close game without QBs Mac Jones and Brian Hoyer, who left early in the first half with a head injury.
Bailey Zappe took over for the Patriots in his first ever live game action and threw 10 completions for 99 yards and a touchdown. It was a conservative game for sure, but Zappe managed to keep the game close and play mistake-free football.
There were some situations where Zappe’s decision-making or awareness wasn’t on point, but that is due to lack of experience more than anything. Jones went to Alabama and played against some of the best players in the world before he even stepped into the NFL.
Zappe played lower FBS competition and was thrown into a game on primetime at Lambeau field against a future Hall of Fame QB in Aaron Rodgers. He may not have won the game, but he didn’t lose it, either.
Offensive line has turned a corner
The Patriots OL has looked rough to start the season, but each week, the unit has drastically improved, more specifically rookie guard Cole Strange, who is showcasing why he was worth being “reached on” in the first round.
Aside from Isaiah Wynn, the line has started to pick up the zone blocking schemes much better than in the past, which is a welcoming sign for Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris, who both saw similar schemes in college.
Marcus Cannon filled in for Wynn, who at times looked like he was trying to get the QB killed. However, Rashan Gary is a beast and hard for anyone to contain, but the Patriots’ run game looked really good against some tough blocks. Next Gen Stats has the Packers as one of the worst run defenses in the league, but for how much the Patriots have struggled to really get into a groove this season, it was a welcoming site.
Wynn needs to clean up penalties, or Cannon could take his RT job soon. Cannon and Michael Onwenu were a force to be reckoned with on the right side. David Andrews was good, and Trent Brown started to look like “vintage” Brown.
The goal is to keep building the line’s chemistry so that when Mac Jones returns, they can do a much better job at keeping the pressure off, helping the run game get going and opening up the offense for all to get production.
Why is Myles Bryant still playing heavy snaps?
Look, Myles Bryant is not bad enough to warrant removing off the roster, but why are the Patriots constantly trotting him out there when players like Shaun Wade, Jabrill Peppers and Marcus Jones are as good in the slot?
Bryant has already lost his returner job to Jones, and rightfully so. But if the Patriots wish to compete late in games, they need playmakers, on BOTH sides of the ball. Myles Bryant got torched in short areas by Randall Cobb, who is a savvy, talented veteran, but is much older and slower than Bryant. Not to mention, Bryant had a costly penalty late in the game that ultimately led to the loss.
I truly believe on that third-and-medium, if Bryant didn’t get called for a defensive pass interference, we would be talking about how Bailey Zappe led the team to a victory at Green Bay.
Rookies came to play
Bailey Zappe, Marcus Jones, and Jack Jones were all asked to play larger roles this week than they ever had, and they all held up well. It’s a welcoming sign for the new approach the Patriots’ front office is taking to their draft process—drafting size, toughness, and skill over the typical Belichickian model, “jack of all, master of none.”
I have been calling for the Patriots to let the kids play. They’re cheaper, younger and more explosive than whatever they have in front of them. Outside of Zappe, I don’t see why the team would opt to relegate them back to their typical depth roles, when they should be trying to start the rookies, or at least giving them a larger role than in the past. The team needs playmakers, and Jack and Marcus Jones showed that ability last night.
Bailey Zappe, on the other hand, deserves to be QB2 when all is said and done. Brian Hoyer is great as insurance, but Zappe possesses more upside and proved he has some poise and command of the offense, even if it was pretty vanilla for the rookie. His 99 passing yards isn’t something to write home about, but his command and poise in situational football is.
Heck, the Patriots drafted the kid to be the insurance plan for Mac, so why not increase his workload slightly to be ready for those situations? Plus, Brian Hoyer as a healthy scratch when Mac is back is not a bad thing. He is more coach than player at this point in his career anyway and will be there if either Mac or Zappe goes down for extended periods of time.