Quarterback Mac Jones is one of several starters reportedly not expected to play in the New England Patriots' preseason opener against the New York Giants on Thursday night.
According to ESPN's Mike Reiss and Dan Graziano, "most" of the Pats' starters are unlikely to play Thursday, meaning the game will primarily be a showcase for rookies and backups.
Reiss and Graziano added that Bailey Zappe, a rookie fourth-round pick out of Western Kentucky, is expected to take the bulk of the snaps at quarterback against the Giants.
Although Jones is only entering his second NFL season, it is not uncommon for starting quarterbacks to sit out some or even all of their team's preseason games.
Keeping Jones healthy is paramount for the Pats since all they have behind him are the unproven Zappe and journeyman veteran Brian Hoyer, neither of whom seem likely to lead New England to much success if Jones misses time.
The Patriots made Jones the No. 15 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft out of Alabama, and he went on to enjoy the best season of any rookie quarterback, finishing second in the Offensive Rookie of the Year voting to Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase.
Jones started all 17 games, leading the Patriots to a 10-7 record and a wild-card playoff berth. He also completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 3,801 yards, 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions en route to a Pro Bowl selection.
While Jones struggled in a 47-17 playoff loss to the Buffalo Bills, he led the Pats to a far better season than anyone could have anticipated on the heels of the team missing the postseason in 2020.
The 2022 season will be pivotal for Jones since his offensive coordinator from 2021, Josh McDaniels, left New England to take the Las Vegas Raiders' head coaching job.
New England is not naming a new offensive coordinator, but Jones figures to work closely with both Matt Patricia and Joe Judge. Patricia will be the senior football advisor and offensive line coach, while Judge will be an offensive assistant and quarterbacks coach.
Both Patricia and Judge spent time as NFL head coaches before returning to the Patriots' staff, meaning they could bring a unique perspective for Jones to learn from.
Making a second consecutive playoff appearance will be a massive challenge for New England in the loaded AFC, but if Jones can make significant strides from last season, the Pats have a chance to be contenders once again.