Mike ReeseESPN staff writer3 minutes to read
Foxboro, Massachusetts – New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick praised quarterback Mack Jones’ improvement ahead of Sunday’s season-opener against the Philadelphia Eagles, while leaving the door open for who might serve as his best backup.
“Mack’s had a really good season and he’s had a really good camp,” Belichick said in a video conference Monday morning. “He understands attack – how it works, how to get his teammates involved, how to help them be productive. So he’s had a really good stretch here; he’s been consistent all the way through.”
Belichick also told WEEI Sports Radio that Jones is in “excellent physical shape,” has “made a lot of improvement in his readings, decision making, and timing,” and that he is “looking forward to the season with Mac.”
Those were crucial words coming from Belichick, who noticed at the start of training camp how every player on the roster – including Jones – was vying for a starting role.
As it turned out, Belichick only kept Jones at the starting quarterback spot on the team’s preliminary 53-man roster last week, dropping off his primary competition, Billy Zabby, and undrafted free agent Malik Cunningham.
The Patriots put Zabi and Cunningham back on the practice squad a day later, with Belichick explaining his thinking about Zabi publicly for the first time on Monday by saying, “All roster decisions are based on what we feel is best for our football team, so” there are a number of things involved here. We’re delighted to have Pele, who will continue to work with him, and still thinks he’s a good, young player in the making.”
The Patriots also claimed second-year quarterback Matt Corral on waivers from the Carolina Panthers last Thursday, placing him on their 53-man roster.
While Corral is technically ahead of Zappe on the depth chart with his presence on the 53-man roster, Belichick said he’s not sure if Corral will be ready for No. 2 duties in the opener.
“He’s not on the field yet, so we’ll see,” Belichick said before the team’s training session on Monday afternoon.
“Matt was available, we’ll add him to the squad and see how that goes. And based on what we saw in Carolina and back in college film in Mississippi, he’s a player we wanted to work with.”
The Patriots have the option to lift Zabby from the practice squad in Sunday’s opener as the No. 2 pick, and under the NFL’s new rules for third quarterbacks, Corral can make the emergency No. 3 pick and not count against the 47-max game-day roster (or 48 If the team activates at least 8 offensive linemen).
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