The New England Patriots begin summer camp in a few weeks and it makes sense to take a look at each unit on the team to evaluate just how good (or not) they may be.
The offseason (such as it was) is pretty much completed. Free agency has taken place, though a few nice names remain available and could be signed. In addition, the draft is well in the rearview mirror.
So it makes sense to take a look at each position in a series of missives that evaluate and grade the offense and defensive units and what to expect in 2023 from each.
First up, as well it should be or rather must be, is the most important position on the team, the quarterback.
New England Patriots quarterback situation
It would be fair to say to any NFL team that hopes to be a playoff team or better has to have a top player here, or they’re well toast. The New England Patriots are no different.
The incumbent seems to be clear, it’s former first-round draft pick, Mac Jones. He has seemingly secured the top spot and outplayed Bailey Zappe to this point. While things could change between now and September, it’s unlikely. Jones will start and he’s the No. One positive.
The question with Jones is, which version will show up in 2023? Will it be the “Pro Bowl” version of 2021 or the lackluster one that played in 2022?
Jones was superb as a rookie under Josh McDaniels but they tailed way off under Matt Patricia. (In fairness to Matt, he’s a defensive coach who was asked to be an offensive coordinator (OC).
It was a terrible move by Bill Belichick and Patricia just did his best.) This season they’ll have Bill O’Brien at OC and that will make a significant difference.
If the 2021 Jones returns, the outlook will be fairly good for this offense. Unfortunately, there are question marks that will impact the entire unit’s performance.
New England Patriots backup QBs
Backup quarterbacks are essentially irrelevant until they aren’t. An injury to the first-stringer can topple a team’s season in a hurry. Having a solid backup is essential.
Bailey Zappe is the top backup and he proved in a few games as a rookie in 2022 that have can fill in pretty well. It’s a good situation to have. He’s a second positive.
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Behind Zappe is a possible trump card for the New England Patriots in quarterback/wide receiver hybrid Malik Cunningham. The team paid more money for this undrafted free agent than on any of the same in their history and with good reason.
Cunningham is the diametric opposite of the other two quarterbacks. He’s a dual-threat type who can ruin your day passing but also with his legs. He’s not just a good running quarterback, he’s an exceptional one.
While most of his work has been and likely we’ll be at wideout, it behooves the team to ready him to play quarterback either in an ad hoc role or who knows, maybe even as a starter at some point.
Cunningham needs to be on the gameday roster to force opponents to game-plan for the worst, a running quarterback-led offense in Foxborough. He’s the favorite off-season acquisition of any kind for this space.
With all this in mind, what’s the New England Patriots grade at quarterback entering summer camp? That would be a B/B-. They have questions but should be in fairly good shape at the position.
How would you grade the Patriots’ quarterbacks? We’d like to hear.