While the hope is that Mac Jones will play, Bill Belichick confirmed on Wednesday that veteran backup Brian Hoyer will be the Patriots' starting quarterback for Sunday's game against the Packers if Jones is not able to play.
Belichick added that Jones has made significant progress over the past 48 hours after suffering a high-ankle sprain during this past Sunday's loss to the Ravens. Jones' injury was initially expected to sideline him for multiple games.
Hoyer would get the nod to start over rookie fourth-round pick Bailey Zappe. Sunday would mark the 40th regular-season start for Hoyer, a 14-year veteran who has won 16 of his previous 39 starts. Hoyer lost his only start with New England. He went 15 of 24 for 130 yards and a pick in New England's 26-10 loss to the Chiefs in Week 4 of the 2020 season. Hoyer, 36, played well in relief duty last season, going 9 of 11 for 227 yards and a touchdown.
A northeastern Ohio native, Hoyer went 3-0 as the Browns' starter in 2013 and was off to a 7-6 start in 2014 before he was replaced late in the season by Johnny Manziel. He went 5-4 as the Texans' starter the following season. Hoyer then had unsuccessful stints in Chicago and San Francisco before rejoining the 49ers midway through the 2017 season after the Patriots traded Jimmy Garoppolo to San Francisco. Hoyer spent the entire 2018 season in New England before spending the 2019 season with the Colts. He began his third stint with the Patriots after re-signing with them ahead of the 2020 season.
While his starting record isn't pretty, Hoyer boasts a solid 53-33 touchdown-interception ratio. He's also completed over 65% of his passes for the Patriots.
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If Jones can't go, Hoyer will be tasked with facing a Packers defense that is currently sixth in the NFL in scoring, seventh in passing yards allowed, first in third-down efficiency and eighth in red zone efficiency. Green Bay's defense is just 18th against the run, however, which could lead to a heavy dose of carries for Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson.
While the offense probably won't change much, Patriots offensive assistant Joe Judge said that subtle things may be tweaked in order to help Hoyer run the offense if called upon to do so.
"Obviously, Brian's done a lot of things in his career that maybe we implement, maybe we don't. We don't want to go ahead and completely turn the offense on its head," Judge said, via the Boston Herald. "We feel like we were making some progress. But at the same time, we're going to make sure we put guys in a position to succeed."