FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots are sticking to the plan.
On Wednesday, Bill Belichick said he had no intention of publicly declaring a starting quarterback for Sunday’s game against the Chargers. Instead, he appears set on following the same path as last week, when he was mum on who would get the call against the Giants, with practice performance ultimately dictating who would start.
“I’m not going to make any announcements on our lineup at any position,” Belichick said when asked about the quarterback depth chart. “It doesn’t matter what the position is. We’ll see how practice goes, and we’ll see if everybody is ready to go. Hope everybody is ready to go. See what the injury situation is. And we’ll go with what we think is best on Sunday.
“I’m not prepared to make any announcement.”
Last week, Belichick and the Patriots were similarly coy in the days leading up to the game. Mac Jones ended up getting the call, and he went 12 of 21 for 89 yards with a pair of interceptions against the Giants before being benched at halftime.
Bailey Zappe relieved Jones, and while he ended up leading the Patriots on their only scoring drive in the 10-7 loss while going 9 of 14 for 54 yards with an interception, neither one provided much of an offensive spark. The two combined for no touchdown passes and three interceptions.
It was the fourth time this season that Jones was yanked in favor of Zappe.
Belichick was asked Wednesday for his thoughts on Jones and his performance.
“We haven’t won enough games, so I don’t think anybody has performed well enough,” Belichick said. “We all need to do a better job.”
Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster said of Jones, “He’s been great. I’ll tell you one thing, his attitude, with everything going on, he’s very positive. He’s a professional. Very supportive of everyone.”
The ineffective play of Jones and Zappe theoretically could open the door for Will Grier or Malik Cunningham to see time against the Chargers. Grier was re-signed to the practice squad after being released Saturday.
Asked if Grier could get extra reps with the starters this week, Belichick said all players — including those on the practice squad — need to be ready to play.
“That includes everybody,” he said.
During the brief window in which media were allowed to observe practice Wednesday, Zappe took the bulk of the reps at quarterback. Meanwhile, Cunningham — wearing a wide receiver’s jersey and not a noncontact QB jersey — was the only other player to rotate in and throw a pass. Jones watched from behind the drill, and Grier did not take a snap.
As for Cunningham, Belichick acknowledged the rookie is a bit of a wild card. He has been working at receiver most of the season, but also has seen reps at scout-team quarterback, depending on that week’s opponent.
“He’s kind of a unique player,” said Belichick. “Things aren’t straight-line with him. He’s different than probably every other player we have on the team, so he’s handled differently.”
“That’s a dangerous dude right there,” Smith-Schuster said. “Him being in there, he can do a lot of different things.”
“He gets some reps at quarterback on the scout team and things like that,” offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien said Tuesday. “But he’s played mostly at receiver, and he’s gotten a lot better as a receiver.
“I do think it’s hard to learn both of those positions. It’s not like learning right tackle and left guard. When you’re learning quarterback and wide receiver, it’s difficult. But he’s done a really admirable job of trying to do both.”
In the end, Belichick said, it will come down to whoever ends up doing the best job taking advantage of the chances they get over the course of the week.
“Every player, whatever opportunities they have, need to do the best with them that they can,” Belichick said. “Practice, games, even in meetings and other preparation opportunities. That’s what a player can do: be prepared and do the best he can.
“Each guy will have an opportunity to do that somewhere along the line, over the course of a long season. A lot of times, it’s multiple times in a day. Sometimes, for some players, the opportunities are a little bit different.
“But when those opportunities come, that’s what those players need to do. That’s what they’ve been told. They know and understand that, and I think they’re doing the best they can. So we’ll see how it goes.”