Patriots

Examining the Patriots’ emergency quarterback options

The Patriots are down to the last quarterback on the roster. Is it time to make a move?

Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff
Bailey Zappe is the first player ever to make his NFL debut as a visitor at Lambeau Field and throw a touchdown pass in that game, according to the "NFL on CBS." Lambeau Field opened in 1957.

With Mac Jones nursing a high-ankle sprain, and Brian Hoyer dealing with a head injury, the Patriots are down to rookie Bailey Zappe, who is the only healthy quarterback on the roster.

Even the Patriots’ top emergency quarterback option, Jakobi Meyers, has missed the last two weeks with a knee injury.

Heading into last week, the Patriots seemed intent on sticking with the initial quarterback trio of Jones, Hoyer, and Zappe for as long as possible.

But, with two of the three hurt and the team being one injury away from not having a quarterback at all, Bill Belichick said Monday that he is evaluating his options.

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Here’s a look at what some of those options might be.

Emergency options

The Patriots don’t want to have to find out what happens if Zappe gets hurt and Hoyer and Meyers remain unavailable, wrote ESPN’s Mike Reiss on Twitter.

One Patriots player who impressed with his arm during preseason was tight-end Hunter Henry, tweeted Reiss during the game.

The Providence Journal’s Mark Daniels mentioned Lynn Bowden as a potential wild card option. Bowden played quarterback in high school before switching to receiver at Kentucky.

Risk: Any of these options, including Meyers, would have to be ready to go at a moment’s notice playing out of position against NFL competition.

Reward: The Patriots would get to see how it goes with Zappe and Hoyer and don’t have to bring anyone else in.

Likelihood: Could these options work for a series or two, or maybe a quarter at most? Sure. But for a whole game or longer? Not likely.

Signing Cam Newton

There is a former Patriots starting quarterback out there, who is both a former league MVP and an available free agent.

Sure, there are concerns about how much Cam Newton has left in the tank, and the immediate pressure to get him ready would be significant.

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But, the Patriots need insurance in case the offensive line fails to keep Bailey Zappe healthy. Plus, not too long ago, Newton was battling Mac Jones for the starting job.

Risk: Newton had some COVID-related availability issues during his time in New England. Also, it’s never easy for a player of his stature to become a backup, and the Patriots would have to deal with him once Jones gets healthy.

Reward: A known commodity who knows the system. Someone who been through pretty much every NFL situation. An extra quarterback on the roster in a time when the Patriots desperately need one.

Likelihood: The Patriots seem to prefer not bringing in an outside quarterback, but if they’re forced to do so Newton should be one of the first calls they make.

Sticking with Zappe and Hoyer

While he missed most of Sunday’s game, Hoyer hasn’t been ruled out for Sunday’s matchup against Detroit.

If he is dealing with a concussion, the optics of playing a quarterback a week after a head injury probably wouldn’t look too great after what happened to Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa against the Bengals.

Mac Jones suited up for practice on Friday, but did not participate. His high-ankle sprain will reportedly cause him to miss “multiple games.”

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If Hoyer is somehow able to play on Sunday, the Patriots might be able to get away with sticking with a combination of him and Zappe without bringing in another quarterback.

Risk: In this scenario, New England is one Bailey Zappe injury away from disaster. Gambling on Hoyer’s health one week after a head injury seems risky.

Reward: The Patriots can stick with a pair of quarterbacks who they trust and who know the system. Zappe handled himself well against a decent Green Bay team, and more snaps for the rookie would only help.

Likelihood: Depends on Hoyer’s health. If there are any issues with Hoyer, it’s tough to picture the Patriots rolling the dice with only Zappe.

Picking from the practice squad

There’s always the practice squad to draw from in these types of situations. Other teams’ practice squad players are available too, as long as they’re not one of the five designated protected players in a given week.

The Patriots may have their eye on a practice squad quarterback who could help out and be an extra body for a couple weeks while Hoyer and Jones heal.

Risk: Taking up a roster spot the Patriots might want to use elsewhere.

Reward: Having someone whose primary position is available if Zappe gets hurt.

Likelihood: This seems to make sense. It’s a low-risk option, and if the Patriots get into a jam, they’re covered with someone who at least throws the ball for a living.

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