Patriots

The good news? Brian Hoyer can’t manage to be worse than Mac Jones has already been this season.

Hoyer last saw significant time for the Patriots during the lost season of 2020.

Brian Hoyer (left) chatted with Mac Jones during passing drills.

COMMENTARY

Want some good news about the Patriots possibly losing quarterback Mac Jones for any extended period of time? New England now gets to replace a quarterback that had a worse positional rating (76.2) than any other quarterback not named Justin Fields over the first three games of the 2022 NFL season.

How much worse can Brian Hoyer possibly be?

Call it the sophomore slump or the challenge of learning a new offense, but few quarterbacks have been as bad as Jones has been for the Patriots this season. His five interceptions are most in the league, tied with Matthew Stafford and Jameis Winston, who has made the giveaway a part of his career repertoire. Jones has thrown only two touchdown passes, the same amount as Mitch Trubisky, the aforementioned Fields, Jimmy Garoppolo, and the ghost of the player who used to be known as Russell Wilson. His QBR rating is a pathetic 35.3, which means he’s been better than the likes of Baker Mayfield, Davis Mills, and Joe Flacco. Neat.

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It has been a chore to watch Jones this month. From series to series, he’ll display a flash or two of some encouragement, only to come crashing down to earth. That was ultimately the story of Sunday’s 37-26 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, a game during which the Patriots showed that they might have more fight in them than was generally thought. However, only the New Orleans Saints (Hello, Jameis) have turned the ball over more times (nine) than the Patriots (eight; three fumbles and five interceptions), who watched Jones throw three costly picks Sunday afternoon, all building up to Nelson Agholar’s second fumble of the season as the Patriots attempted to mount a late-game comeback.

And then, things got worse.

Or did they?

The game was well out go hand by the time Baltimore defensive lineman Calais Campbell landed on Jones’s ankle late in the fourth quarter, prompting the quarterback to hop off the field in the expressed sort of pain normally reserved for something more catastrophic than an ankle sprain. But Jones’s captured grimace will live as a meme for far longer than he’ll be out of the Patriots lineup.

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Reports on Monday confirmed that Jones suffered a “pretty severe” high ankle sprain that will likely sideline the quarterback for this weekend’s game in Green Bay. The Patriots are hoping he can avoid surgery, but according to footcaremd.org, recovery time can take “up to 6-8 weeks to return to normal activity, but can sometimes take even longer.”

That’s a better prognosis than thinking Jones’s season was over, but there is the possibility that the team should also not expect him to play until December.

From a development standpoint, it puts a pause on Jones’s subpar sophomore season. From a competitive standpoint, it probably doesn’t mean much at all.

It wasn’t exactly revelatory to figure after the Patriots’ first month of the season that New England will be an also-ran in this year’s NFL. The Bills — and Dolphins? — have taken over control of the AFC East, leaving the bottom half of the division for your New England Patriots and the Jets. A defense which showed some encouraging signs against Miami and Pittsburgh had some more eye-opening plays during the first half against Lamar Jackson and the Ravens. Then the unit went into full Steve Belichick mode in the second. The team has talent, but little clue about which direction to lead it. It has potential, but would rather spend its time trying to play Star Search for its coaches rather than create a viable, structured approach so not to waste the talents of a young quarterback, who may or may not be THE GUY.

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All that is on pause now as the Patriots just try and tread water, having to adjust their personnel a whopping 18 percent through the 17-game regular season.

And so, 36-year-old Brian Hoyer will likely take snaps for the foreseeable future, whether that be for one game, a month, or the rest of the season. Maybe it’s an opportunity to bring Cam Newton back. Perhaps Foxborough can be the Kaeperick test tube everybody has been waiting for. Or maybe Bill Belichick just grabs Jarret Stidham back from Josh McDaniels, who might have a shorter stay in 0-3 Las Vegas than he did in Denver all those years ago.

Isn’t it all just so exciting?

Hoyer last saw significant time for the Patriots during the lost season of 2020, when anybody but Newton was seen as an improvement. Now, he comes in just trying to improve on a guy who happened to be performing like the worst quarterbacks in the league. What’s the worst that can happen?

The Patriots’ problems are a lot deeper than Mac Jones’s putrid start. Thus, replacing him with Brian Hoyer isn’t going to be all that impactful. Hoyer isn’t going to improve the team’s laughable special teams gaffes, nor will he quietly fix all of Matt Patricia’s half-baked calls from the sideline (the decision to go for it on fourth down in yesterday’s first half was a doozy to end all doozies). Hoyer can’t be much worse. That’s all the Patriots can hope for.

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That’s not exactly the mantra of a winning team, but it could be beneficial for Jones as well. He’ll be on the sidelines for the next few weeks, possibly holding Patricia’s clip board, hot dog, or whatever else the pencil-pusher deems necessary to try and create an appearance. Maybe that will slow the game down for the quarterback, who will get to experience how Patricia calls the game on the sideline. Perhaps that helps with his relationship with the de facto offensive coordinator, creating a stronger dynamic by which the mistakes that have plagued him tend to disappear once he’s back in the lineup.

Either that or he’ll forget the hot dog and Patricia won’t talk to him anymore. Either scenario really seems plausible.

Jones can grow from this. But his absence isn’t exactly a death knell for the Patriots. They weren’t going anywhere anyway.

Having Hoyer as your quarterback means that something went wrong along the way. Now, Jones gets to play observer on the sideline, where he’ll at least be able to hang out with pal Kendrick Bourne.

They’re both going to see about the same amount of playing time over the next few weeks. Like it will make a difference anyway. The Patriots are going nowhere.

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