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Bailey Zappe will 'take full advantage' of any opportunity to become Patriots' QB1

At the Annual League Meeting in March, Bill Belichick declined to name Mac Jones as the New England Patriots' starting quarterback for 2023.

It was the latest awkward moment in what has been a year of downturns for Jones following a promising rookie season in 2021.

That theoretically means Bailey Zappe, the Patriots' 2022 fourth-round pick and No. 2 QB for much of last season, could get a chance to unseat Jones. Zappe said Wednesday he'll be ready if he gets that shot.

"If my opportunity presents itself, I'm going to take full advantage of it," Zappe said at a youth football clinic in Newport, Rhode Island, via Mass Live’s Chris Mason. "I'm going to do everything I can to help the team win. That's really all I can say from that standpoint. That's coach Belichick's decision, whatever he decides. But if the opportunity presents itself, I'm going to be ready and take advantage of it."

Zappe was ready when he was called on in his NFL debut last year at Green Bay.

Jones was injured the week prior, which left Brian Hoyer to start. Hoyer got hurt in the first quarter of that game, turning the game over to Zappe, who completed 10 of 15 passes for 99 yards and a touchdown in the Packers' overtime victory.

The Patriots started Zappe the next two games, against the Lions and Browns, and won both. Jones returned in Week 6 against the Bears but was pulled for Zappe after some early struggles. The Gillette Stadium crowd chanted Zappe's name throughout, although he threw two picks and the Patriots lost that game, 33-14.

Zappe finished last season completing 65 of 92 passes (70.7%) for 781 yards, five TDs and three picks, also rushing for 40 yards in his four outings (two starts). In his 14 starts, Jones has completed 288 of 442 passes (65.2%) for 2,997 yards, 14 TDs and 11 INTs, also running for 104 yards and a TD.

The Patriots brought back Bill O'Brien as offensive coordinator following a failed one-year experiment with former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia calling the offense. O'Brien was Jones' offensive coordinator at Alabama when they won the national championship during the 2020 college football season.

But Belichick's comments suggest that the Jones-O'Brien connection might only mean so much.

When asked in March if Jones would be his starter, the coach said, "Well, everybody will get a chance to play. We'll play the best players," before clarifying that the philosophy applied to the entire roster.

"Every position. Everybody will get a chance to play," Belichick added. "Everybody that's on our roster, if they earn the opportunity to play, based on what they do in practice and all that then they'll get the opportunity to play. Certainly, veteran players who have been on our team before, if they're still on the team, will all get an opportunity to play."

Patriots training camp figures to give us a lot more answers on the future of Jones and Zappe in New England and which quarterback Belichick prefers this season.

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