Rookie watch: Patriots rookies play major role in week four

Oct 2, 2022; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Bailey Zappe (4) throws a pass during the second quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 2, 2022; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Bailey Zappe (4) throws a pass during the second quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /

The Patriots 2022 draft class has had their chances to make an impact so far and they are starting to take advantage of those opportunities. Week four provided us with the expected (Jack Jones playing more) and the unexpected (Bailey Zappe) as the rookies played a major role in the near upset of the Packers. While only one game, the rookies are providing a sense of optimism during an otherwise dreadful start to the season and with wide receiver Tyquan Thornton due back from injury soon, you can’t help but be excited about the prospects of the rookie class. Here’s how Jones, Zappe and the rest of the rookies performed in Sunday’s loss to the Packers.

Jack Jones, A-

Jones’ playing time had gone up each of the first three weeks and with Jalen Mills sidelined on Sunday, Jones got the start opposite Jonathan Jones at cornerback. It was a start that he will probably never forget. On the Packers’ second play from scrimmage, Jones forced a fumble after a completion to Romeo Doubs and recovered it himself. He then added an interception return for a touchdown right before the half to give the Patriots a 10-7 lead.

Jones had a great day in coverage and rated as PFF’s top graded rookie and cornerback in week four. The one area he struggled with was his tackling in the run game as PFF gave him a very low 34.4 grade despite his seven tackles. On the Packers first touchdown drive, they ran at Jones three consecutive times including their touchdown run.

Bailey Zappe, B+

You have to give Zappe credit for stepping into a tough spot and almost delivering a win for the Patriots. Zappe was not expected to see the field when the game began but after Brian Hoyer went out with a concussion, Zappe was thrown into the fire for his first NFL snaps. All in all, Zappe was far better than expected, going 10/15 for 99 yards and a touchdown, despite the nerves that came with his debut.

The one area Zappe struggled was with his second and third reads on passing plays. He seemed to get happy feet in the pocket and was sacked three times, losing a fumble on one of them. The strip sack wasn’t entirely his fault as right tackle Isaiah Wynn was beat badly, but it was still a turnover with the Patriots in position for a score. It will be interesting to see if Zappe gets the start on Sunday against the Detroit Lions.

Cole Strange, B+

Strange has been the lone rookie to start in every game and to receive the bulk of the playing time so far. He continued his strong start to the season on Sunday, helping the Patriots rush for a season-high 167 yards as Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson once again found success running behind the left side of the line. While a strong run blocker, Strange had struggled in pass protection so far this year but graded out at 80.6 by PFF on Sunday as he did a good job handling the interior pass rush.

Marcus Jones, B+

While Marcus Jones has still yet to see any time on the defensive side of the ball since week one, he has made his presence known on special teams, overtaking Myles Bryant as the primary punt returner. Jones was able to return two punts for 49 yards including a 29-yarder that set up the Patriots in Green Bay territory. He added four kick returns for 111 yards and now leads the NFL with 26 yards per kick return. One mistake he did have was fair catching a punt inside the 10-yard line which led to Zappe taking the first snaps of his career in the shadows of his own endzone.

Brenden Schooler, C+

Schooler and the punt return unit did a good job of limiting returns as Schooler himself was able to make a tackle after only a four-yard return. However, he was called for a questionable horse collar penalty, giving Green Bay 15 extra yards and great field position. A few plays later, they were in the endzone and had a 7-3 lead. As part of the kickoff team, Schooler and the Patriots allowed 22 yards per return including a long of 34.

Pierre Strong, Incomplete

The Patriots still are relying on Harris and Stevenson in all downs as Strong once again did not see the field on offense, playing all four of his snaps on special teams.

DaMarcus Mitchell, Incomplete

Mitchell saw 18 snaps, all on special teams and did not contribute any stats.

Chasen Hines, Incomplete

Hines was once again active but did not see the field at all.

Sam Roberts, Incomplete

Roberts was active for the first time all season and only saw one snap on special teams.