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Why the Patriots can trust Bailey Zappe at quarterback

Why the Patriots can trust Bailey Zappe at quarterback
New England Patriots rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe filled in admirably during his first regular-season action on Sunday. (Credit: Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY Sports)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (BVM) – The New England Patriots were dealt a bad hand at the quarterback position even before the team’s game against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. With usual starter Mac Jones ruled out of the game with a high ankle sprain, the Patriots turned to backup veteran quarterback Brian Hoyer. However, with 5:45 left in the first quarter, Hoyer was sacked by Packers’ defensive end Rashan Gary, forcing him out of the game with a head injury.

With Hoyer out, the Patriots turned to Bailey Zappe, a fourthround pick in the 2022 NFL Draft out of Western Kentucky University who hadn’t even dressed for the team’s first three games of the season. While the odds were stacked against him and his team, Zappe was able to put up a respectable showing in front of a hostile crowd in Lambeau Field.

Over the course of eight offensive drives, Zappe went 10-for-15 with 99 yards. Zappe also threw a 25-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to give the Patriots a 17-14 lead, becoming the first 2022 rookie quarterback to throw a touchdown this season. The throw put Zappe in the history books as well, as he became the first visiting quarterback to throw a touchdown in their debut in Lambeau Field history.

“Of course it was exciting at first, it’s a dream come true to play in an NFL game,” Zappe said during his postgame press conference. “First I want to give credit to my teammates. They kept me calm. They kept getting the nerves out of me, kept me in my space, cool, calm and collected.”

Unfortunately for Zappe and the Patriots, while they showed fire it just wasn’t enough to beat a well-oiled machine like the Packers as New England fell 27-24 in overtime. Zappe led two touchdown drives over the course of eight total drives, showing that he was able to lead the offense down the field. While he wasn’t given the keys of the offense with the Patriots mostly rushing the ball and throwing easy, short passes, that should’ve been the expectation for a rookie quarterback who wasn’t even expected to play in the game.

“Just making sure I did my job,” Zappe continued. “That was the biggest thing. … My main objective was to do my job and do it well.”

Given the situation, most of the Patriots coaches and players had nothing but good things to say about the signal-caller on the day.

“I thought Bailey competed well,” head coach Bill Belichick said in his press conference. “He’s good. He’s ready to go. That’s what he needs to be.”

“I want to give a huge shoutout to Zappe,” Defensive end Matthew Judon said during his presser. “The way he stepped up in that game, I don’t even believe he took that many reps with the ones, and the way he played and the poise he had that’s amazing for a rookie. That’s good for our team so big shoutout to him for just being ready.”

“[He] went really quickly from probably thinking he wasn’t playing much this year to getting thrown in the mix in a pretty hostile environment against a really good defense so I thought he led us well,” Center David Andrews said during his press conference. “I’m proud of the way he competed.”

Though Zappe wasn’t given a lot of opportunities to show what he could provide the offense, Patriots fans should feel positive about the showing and what the quarterback could provide in the future. Now, fans should temper expectations, not every lateround Patriots quarterback is going to be the next Tom Brady, but Zappe should be serviceable if not better.

Now, it remains to be seen whether Zappe will be starting next Sunday against the Detroit Lions, but he has shown a solid ability to throw the ball. During his collegiate career, Zappe threw for over 10,000 yards in four seasons for FCS Houston-Baptist University. Zappe transferred to Western Kentucky for the 2021 season where he rewrote the record books, breaking the FCS single-season passing yards and passing touchdown records with 5,987 yards and 62 touchdowns, respectively.

Bailey Zappe Western Kentucky University quarterback
Zappe broke the FBS single-season records for both passing yards and passing touchdowns in his final season at Western Kentucky. (Credit: Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports)

While preseason statistics don’t mean a lot in the long run, Zappe did show some of his abilities for the Patriots in those games. Playing in all three preseason contests, Zappe went 45-for-71 (63.4%) for 464 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. His 464 yards were good for fourth-most in the preseason while his three touchdown passes tied him for third.

With the status of both Jones and Hoyer being unknown as of Sept. 3, Zappe could be the starting quarterback for the Patriots for a week or maybe even multiple depending on the seriousness of the injuries suffered by the other two signal-callers. If that is the case, Zappe should be seen as a fine replacement as he has proven he can not only play in the NFL but do so efficiently.

Zappe probably won’t light the world on fire with his play as the Patriots will more than likely lean on the running game and their defense, but that doesn’t mean Zappe doesn’t have the potential to show what he’s made of. 

The Patriots will play the Lions on Oct. 9, which should be a favorable matchup for Zappe and the New England offense as Detroit currently surrenders the most total yards, the third-most rushing yards and the third-most passing yards. On Sept. 16, the Patriots will face the Cleveland Browns, who do have a top-10 defense in terms of total yardage but are middle of the pack in both rush defense and pass defense. If Zappe has to play three weeks, he’ll face the Chicago Bears on Oct. 24, who currently give up the most rushing yards in the league which could make things easier for the rookie signal-caller.

Whether Zappe is the quarterback of the near future or longer, the Patriots and their fans should feel good about what he was able to show in his debut. If he is given more playing opportunities, expect Zappe to show up and play well within the team’s game plan as New England navigates its quarterback injury bug.