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Who Do Patriots Turn To in Mac Jones Absence: 14-Year Veteran or Rookie?

Unfortunately for New England this isn't 2001 and Tom Brady isn't the backup quarterback.

Three years ago an Alabama quarterback suffered a severe high-ankle sprain and underwent surgery. So who replaced Tua Tagovailoa during his three-week absence in Tuscaloosa?

A redshirt sophomore named Mac Jones.

With Jones now nursing a similar injury - and potentially facing the same "tightrope" surgery or a non-surgical recovery period of 4-8 weeks - and Tua a tad busy with the 3-0 Miami Dolphins, where do the 1-2 New England Patriots turn to save their season from ending before we get to plan our Halloween costumes, much less wear them?

A 14-year NFL veteran who will be 37 next month and has a career record of 16-23, that's who. Welcome (back) to the spotlight, Brian Hoyer.

This isn't Drew Blesdoe getting knocked out of a 2001 Week 2 game by New York Jets' linebacker Mo Lewis and being replaced by Tom Brady. This is the Patriots forced to rely on a career mediocre journeyman or ... a fourth-round rookie in Bailey Zappe yet to attempt his first pro pass.

Hoyer is the consummate bus driver, a place-holder that can't single-handedly win you a game but also won't make a silly mistake to cost you a loss. He appeared in five games last season, completing 9 of 11 passes. He hasn't started a game since the 2020 season, when Cam Newton missed New England's Monday Night Football clash with the Kansas City Chiefs during COVID.

"Tons," Patriots center David Andrews replied when asked how much confidence he has in Hoyer running the New England offense. "Brian has been here a long time and I respect how he comes to work like he is going to play."

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Coming off a loss to the Baltimore Ravens in which they committed four turnovers and surrendered 37 points, the Patriots don't have time to be patient.

Jones might miss four weeks, prompting New England to place him on injured reserve. In that case, he would sit out this week's game at the Green Bay Packers and games against the Detroit Lions (Oct. 9), at the Cleveland Browns (Oct. 16) and against the Chicago Bears (Oct. 24).

In his third stint with the Patriots, Hoyer has the confidence of teammates who say he will at least keep the ship afloat until the offensive captain returns. Even if oddsmakers don't, as they have established New England as a whopping 9.5-point underdog Sunday at Lambeau Field.

"You're talking about a guy with 10-plus years in this league. I think he's a great quarterback and he has great ability," said receiver Nelson Agholor. "What needs to happen will happen, and we'll get ready to go."

Both the San Francisco 49ers (Jimmy Garoppolo) and Dallas Cowboys (Cooper Rush) have won games already this season with backup quarterbacks playing for injured starters.


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