Malik Cunningham Buzz Growing Louder Amid Mac Jones' Struggles

Could Malik Cunningham start in place for Mac Jones in the near future?
Aug 10, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Malik Cunningham (16).
Aug 10, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Malik Cunningham (16). / Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

Week 5 of the 2023 NFL season saw the New England Patriots disappoint their fans again, this time in the form of a 34-0 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Quarterback Mac Jones was at the center of the Pats' offensive struggles for the second week in a row, leaving fans to wonder just how long of a leash the 25-year-old has left.

The lackluster play under center has the New England fanbase begging for relief. Although backup QB Bailey Zappe's play hasn't been that much better, Patriots fans are ready to give third-stringer Malik Cunningham a try.

Taking the latest Cunningham-buzz into consideration, supporters of the former Louisville Cardinal might not have to wait much longer to see him in action.

Patriots Roster Rumors — Malik Cunningham News

Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien told reporters on Tuesday that Cunningham took snaps at QB during last week's practice, much like how Taysom Hill is used by the Saints. O'Brien also added that his first-year quarterback is up there with the "most improved" players on the practice squad.

The 25-year-old QB was assigned to the practice squad at the end of August after spending the preseason with the Patriots as an undrafted free agent. He appeared in three exhibition contests, completing 3-of-6 passes for 19 yards while turning six rushes into 39 yards with a touchdown.

Using Cunningham like a Hill-type player is a no-brainer move. Hill is one of the best gadget players in recent years, cementing himself as a dual-threat by his ability to air out the ball while also beating defenses on the ground.

Cunningham has a similar skill set, having racked up over 9,600 yards and 70 TDs through the air while also rushing for 3,179 yards and 50 TDs over five seasons at Louisville. It makes sense that the Patriots want to see if those talents can translate to NFL success, too.

Cunningham's rushing ability is something that Jones nor Zappe possess. New England desperately needs maneuverability under center with the way our offensive line has been playing. Heading into Week 6, the Patriots have surrendered the third-most hurries (21) and 11th-most pressures (43) while being tied for the eighth-shortest average pocket time (1.9 seconds).

Even if Cunningham does wind up starting soon, expectations must be tempered. As high as his potential is, he's still an undrafted rookie who'll likely make his fair share of mistakes.

Hopefully, those mistakes aren't on the same level as the ones Jones has been making this season.

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