Nelson Agholor didn’t hesitate for even a split second.
“Absolutely,” the Patriots receiver said when asked if he was confident Brian Hoyer could step in for Mac Jones and lead the offense.
With Jones reportedly seeking a second opinion on the high ankle sprain he suffered against the Ravens, Hoyer is trending toward getting the nod against the Packers in Green Bay Sunday afternoon.
According to an NFL Media report, Jones will elicit the advice of Brooklyn Nets team doctor Martin O’Malley, a foot and ankle specialist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.
It’s likely Jones will then decide a course of action to get back on the field, be it surgery, rehabilitation, or a combination. Depending on which road he chooses, he could wind up on injured reserve, which means he would miss at least four games.
Many athletes who suffer high ankle sprains opt for tightrope surgery, which can shorten their time on the sideline.
According to Kenneth Jung, a foot and ankle specialist at the Kerlan Jobe Institute at Cedars Sinai and a consultant to the Rams, surgery is often elected when ligaments have been torn enough that the leg is unstable.
“The tightrope surgery is used to stabilize the tibia and fibula and then restore the alignment of those bones,’’ he said.
A benefit to the tightrope procedure is that permanent sutures are used rather than screws, so there’s no need for a second surgery to remove any hardware.
With traditional surgery, there’s always the risk that a screw can break, leaving nothing holding the bones together.
“When you have the tightrope in there, you always have [it] essentially holding those two bones together,’’ said Jung. “It allows you to push a little harder rehab-wise.’’
Hoyer, meanwhile, brings a wealth of experience to the quarterback position — 14 NFL seasons, including eight in New England — though he has made only 39 starts since originally signing as a rookie free agent with New England in 2009.
In 75 career regular-season games, he has thrown for 10,631 yards, with 53 touchdowns and 35 interceptions.
It’s been a rough stretch of recent history for Hoyer, whose last start (and only one for the Patriots) came in 2020 in Kansas City just after Cam Newton tested positive for COVID-19. He went just 15 of 24 for 130 yards with an interception and a fumble before being pulled for Jarrett Stidham in the loss.
Hoyer has lost his last 11 starts, with his last win coming when he led the Bears past the Lions on Oct. 2, 2016. Six years later to the day, he’ll likely be under center against the Packers.
Still, Hoyer enjoys universal respect and support throughout the organization and the locker room. He is often lauded for his preparedness, professionalism, and ability to give the Patriots defense quality looks as he acts as the scout-team quarterback.
“Brian Hoyer, he’s a leader,” said receiver DeVante Parker. “He’s a vet, so he knows defenses, he’s seen it all. He’ll come out and do what he can to help the team.”
Patriots assistant Joe Judge, who has known Hoyer for years, works closely with him this season as quarterbacks coach, and appreciates what he brings.
“Brian’s done a really good job for us,” said Judge. “Brian draws from a lot of experience. He’s been a starter in the league. He’s played this role before as a backup. He’s been ready to go.
“One thing Brian always does is whether it’s practice or in games, he’s always engaged. He’s always ready with a lot of good conversations on the sideline. He’s very engaged looking at the tablets, communicating the sideline things that he may see or things that may come up; that’s always really good. He’s always very, very involved and he’s always ready to take that next snap when he is called on.”
Though Judge didn’t give any hints about who would be under center Sunday, he did say the formulation of the game plan is underway and it will be heavy on playing to the starters’ strengths, without completely abandoning the offense’s schemes and philosophies.
“Every player has a unique skill set,” said Judge. “Every player does certain things a little better than other things. So we’ll have a plan based on who’s going to be the quarterback, and we’ll see how that develops throughout the week.
“And obviously Brian’s done a lot of things in his career that maybe we implement. You know, maybe we don’t, we don’t want to go ahead and, you know, completely turn the offense on its head. We feel that we’re making some progress. But at the same time, we’re going to make sure we put guys in position to succeed.
“Are there things we could do differently with Brian versus Mac versus Bailey [Zappe]? Absolutely for all three of them. Does that mean we’re going to go ahead and completely change our identity, what we’re trying to build towards? No, not necessarily at all.”
If Hoyer gets the start, he’ll be backed up by Zappe, the rookie fourth-rounder who got the bulk of the preseason snaps for the Patriots. Zappe set FBS records for passing yards (5,987) and TDs (62) last season at Western Kentucky.
If the club decides to bring in another QB, there are some interesting and familiar names on practice squads around the league, including Danny Etling (Green Bay), whom the Patriots drafted in 2018; Jeff Driskel (Houston), whom the Red Sox drafted in 2013; and Andover’s E.J. Perry (Jacksonville), who played at Brown.