New England Patriots coaches have stood by starting quarterback Mac Jones, supporting him despite his struggles on the field the past two weeks. With a rough start today against the Raiders, however, that could change.
Sources say Jones is on a short leash, and a poor opening few series could potentially trigger another QB to take snaps in Las Vegas. It's just not entirely clear who would take those snaps if Jones is benched.
Patriots QBs split reps this week, sources say, with Bailey Zappe and Will Grier getting their fair share. While normally it would be obvious that Zappe, the usual backup, would step in as he has the past two weeks, there is a chance that's not the case. Grier, who New England claimed from the Bengals earlier this season after he performed well in the preseason, has been studying quickly, as well.
And then there is Malik Cunningham, the undrafted free agent from Louisville who impressed this summer and was signed to the active roster with a three-year deal on Saturday. He's seen his time in practice increase, as well, and sources say there is a package in for the speedster -- if the team chooses to use it. Looking for any juice, Cunningham would be an option for the Patriots.
Jones has struggled in his last two games and eventually was pulled in the second half of consecutive blowout losses.
Over his last two contests, Jones has completed 55.8% of his passes for 130 passing yards, zero touchdowns and four interceptions. Combined with a passer rating of 35.0, it's the worst two-game span of his career, and New England has seen 13 of its 25 offensive drives end after three or fewer plays during this stretch. Jones also currently ranks 31st in passer rating among the 33 qualified QBs.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has brushed off the decisions to sit him the past two weeks, insinuating that it was because there was no point in having Jones continue to be put at risk given the lopsided score.
This past week, Belichick was asked about a possible change at QB, and he responded, "Yeah, we're not making any changes."
Offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien also was asked if he envisioned Jones being the starter and said, "I do."
Both coaches pointed out that there were issues far beyond the quarterback at play, and that is true. Injuries will make fielding a competent offensive line challenging, and receivers Demario Douglas and JuJu Smith-Schuster have been ruled out for Sunday's game.
But Jones also must play better.
"We're out there playing a game that I love," Jones said this past week. "And right now it's not looking too good. We need to find a way to flip the switch and go out there and have fun and sling the ball around and have guys make plays and celebrate with each other, too."