FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- One of the storylines we previewed heading into training camp was the possibility of a quarterback battle sparking up between Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe, particularly following a 2022 season when Jones, at times, started to lose ground to the then-rookie. Following Monday's training camp session, Bill Belichick appeared on SiriusXM NFL Radio and commended all three of New England's quarterbacks (including veteran Trace McSorley) and added that they'll have "a chance to compete and see how it goes."
Before heading into the team's sixth training camp practice on Tuesday, Belichick was asked if those comments he made the day prior implied the possibility of a legit competition for the starting job under center. To that, the head coach answered, "Everybody is out here competing, all 90 guys. That's what we're all here for is to go out and compete." When pressed further and asked if that meant Jones wasn't necessarily the Day 1 starter, Belichick said, "Everybody is out here competing. Everybody is out here competing, that's what everybody is doing."
If you wanted to run wild with those comments (or non-comments), you could take Belichick not explicitly saying Jones is QB1 as meaning that the Patriots starting job is truly up for grabs this summer. If you do, however, you'd probably be running a fool's errand.
The context of Belichick's comments appears to stem from a broader message that the entire team needs to compete and that nothing will be handed to them (whispers: even if some jobs are largely set in stone).
So far, there hasn't been much indication that there is a quarterback battle. Far from it, in fact. Jones has routinely received what can be perceived as the starting reps, working with the top of the roster pass-catchers and what would be the starting offensive line if there was a game on Sunday. That was the case during the competitive 11-on-11 drills on Tuesday and, whenever it was Zappe's turn, that caused the offensive line to swap out as well with the reserves getting their reps at that juncture.
During a different period on Tuesday, Jones could be seen working with the likes of JuJu Smith-Schuster, DeVante Parker, Mike Gesicki, and others while Zappe and McSorley were on the other side of the reserves, further signaling that Jones likely has a solid grasp on the starting job.
And if there was a competition, Jones would be winning. While it wasn't a perfect showing for the former first-round pick on Tuesday, I thought Jones was by far the best quarterback on the field, going 4-for-6 in 11-on-11s that took place outside of the red zone. That included arguably the highlight of the day on a perfectly placed ball to Parker, who was able to leap over first-round rookie Christian Gonzalez for the toe-tapping reception. Once the team moved into the red zone for more 11-on-11s, the Jones-led offense scored on three of his four passing attempts. As for Zappe, the second-year quarterback was 5-for-10 during 11-on-11s as a whole and his offense did not score a passing touchdown during the 11s period that took place inside the red zone.
Again, it wasn't a slam dunk day for Jones. He had an ill-advised throw during 7-on-7s that likely should have been intercepted by Marcus Jones on a throw to Smith-Schuster and overthrew Kendrick Bourne on a deep throw over the middle of the field after Bourne got a step on his defender. But that doesn't mean there's a QB controversy in Foxborough.
More from Day 6
- After going through the first full-padded practice of the summer on Monday, Belichick took his foot off the gas a bit on Tuesday as the Patriots were in helmets and shells. Even with the physicality of full pads taken away from this session, you could make a case that Tuesday's practice had a bit more energy to it.
- Hunter Henry and Mac Jones have continued to have a strong rapport, particularly when it comes to the Patriots attacking in the red zone. The tight end muscled down a dart from Jones on a quick slant from roughly the 10-yard line, beating Jabrill Peppers in coverage. There's been plenty of emphasis on red zone execution for the Patriots so far in camp and Henry has arguably shined the brightest out of the skill position players.
- Cole Strange was one of the notable players to go down with an apparent leg injury on Monday, but he was spotted at the start of practice, which was encouraging. However, he did not participate in any of the drills.
- On top of Strange not participating, Trent Brown was also limited. That means the Patriots were without three starting offensive linemen on Tuesday, when also factoring in right guard Mike Onwenu (PUP list). In their absences, Riley Reiff (left tackle), Atonio Mafi (left guard), David Andrews (center), Bill Murray (right guard), and Conor McDermott (right tackle) made up New England's offensive line in front of Jones.
- While the offensive line has been a bit banged up, pass rusher Matthew Judon and running back Rhamondre Stevenson were able to participate in team drills on Tuesday after previously being limited.
- The secondary will be worth monitoring throughout the preseason, specifically as it relates to the cornerback opposite of Christian Gonzalez. The rookie has been a fixture on the outside with the presumptive starters, but the other side is less clear. That said, Jack Jones did see times with the starters and has played well throughout the early days of camp. That said, Jones' availability is still in question as he still facing and is due back in court on Aug. 18. Strictly from a football standpoint, however, the second-year corner has played well.
- Speaking of coverage, linebacker Mack Wilson Sr. had the best defensive play of the afternoon, breaking up a Jones-thrown ball to tight end Mike Gesicki by fully extending to send the ball to the turf. Wilson also broke up another ball intended for rookie Kayshon Boutte from Zappe.
- Belichick confirmed that fourth-round rookie Sidy Sow will be working as a tackle with the Patriots. The Eastern Michigan product mostly played guard at the collegiate level. When asked why the team likes him more at tackle, Belichick said Tuesday morning, "I just feel like that's the right spot for us. That's why we're putting him there, but he played tackle in college his freshman year, then he played left tackle in the all-star game. So, he's played a little bit of tackle."