The Patriots’ backup quarterback spot is still unclear just two days prior to their season-opening matchup against the Eagles.
Matt Corral is the only other quarterback on the Patriots’ roster outside of starter Mac Jones. But Bailey Zappe still sits on the practice squad following his surprise release from the roster in late August.
The Patriots can call up Zappe from the practice squad ahead of Sunday’s game, which would likely make him the top backup on the depth chart. Adding a wrinkle into all of this, Corral was reportedly absent from Friday’s practice after practicing the last two days, possibly signaling that a move could be on the horizon.
Prior to Friday’s practice, Patriots coach Bill Belichick admitted that the backup quarterback situation was “a decision we’re going to have to finalize here today.” He was also a bit more open than usual about sharing his thoughts on the situation between Corral and Zappe.
“I think it’s a consideration,” Belichick told reporters when asked if he felt comfortable making Corral the No. 2 quarterback just over a week after he joined the team. “Bailey certainly has the advantage on experience and time in the system and all that, so we’ll see how that all plays out. We have a couple of different options there, so we’ll kind of see how that goes, try to make the best one.”
As Zappe has the “advantage on experience and time in the system,” the Patriots could sign him back to the 53-man roster ahead of Sunday’s game. That move would likely require them to waive Corral as the team might need the maximum of two practice squad call-ups allowed due to injuries to DeVante Parker, Mike Onwenu, Cole Strange, and Jack Jones. Rhamondre Stevenson was also reportedly missing from Friday’s absence.
If the Patriots plan to waive Corral, they would risk losing him on waivers just like they did with Zappe following cutdown day. Corral could rejoin the Patriots on their practice squad if he clears waivers. But he could also choose to sign with another team’s practice squad, like the Panthers, who released him from their 53-man roster last week.
Corral, who the Panthers selected in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft, has yet to play in an NFL regular-season game after he suffered a Lisfranc injury during the preseason as a rookie. The Patriots seemed impressed with what they saw with Corral through his first few days with the team, with offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien praising his work ethic on Tuesday.
“Matt has been here morning, noon, and night,” O’Brien told reporters on Tuesday. “And he’s doing a good job of learning. And we just need to keep progressing him. You can’t throw everything at him at once because that’s a lot of information.
“So, we try to do a good job of giving them the things that are important for him right now. And it’s a team effort, and he’s done a good job of just coming in here and trying to learn and soak it up.”
As for Zappe, he opted to stick with the Patriots on their practice squad, turning down interest from seven teams to join their respective practice rosters, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. Zappe appeared in four games for the Patriots as a rookie in 2022, starting in two of them as the Patriots won both of his starts.
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