The Patriots strengthen OL, choose a QB and a few more Jones

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The New England Patriots signed three players to protect quarterback Mac Jones and one to back him up.

After making a surprising carry for Chattanooga guard Cole Strange in the first round of the NFL Draft, the Patriots added another guard, LSU’s Chasen Hines, and Michigan offensive tackle Andrew Stueber on Saturday.

Coach Bill Belichick also helped the offense by moving to catch Baylor receiver Tyquan Thornton in the second round and drafted a pair of running backs, South Dakota State’s Pierre Strong Jr. and Kevin Harris from South Carolina on Day 3.

New England also added two defensive backs this weekend, Marcus Jones from Houston and Jack Jones from Arizona State, as well as defensive tackle from northwest Missouri, Sam Roberts.


But the biggest surprise might have been Western Kentucky quarterback Bailey Zappe, selected with the No. 137 pick, in the fourth round.

LINE

Stueber is a 6-foot-7, 325-pound tackle who was a leader in the group that won the Joe Moore Award for Best Offensive Line in the Nation. He missed all of 2019 with a torn ACL, but has started every game for the past two seasons.

Hines, who is listed at 6-foot-3 and 350 pounds, played primarily at right guard but also backed up All-America center Lloyd Cushenberry when LSU won the NCAA title in 2019.

A REPLACEMENT HEIR

Zappe fits the Patriots history of avoiding the most swept quarterbacks in the draft, a process that worked well with Tom Brady (No. 199 overall) and seems to have struck again with Mac Jones, who was No. 15 overall but the fifth quarterback taken last year.

“He’s a phenomenal quarterback,” said Zappe, who will compete with 36-year-old Brian Hoyer and 2019 fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham for the reserve spots at this time. “I’m really looking forward to learning from these three guys and getting up there and meeting them and doing whatever I can to help the team.”

Conference USA MVP and Manning Award finalist, Zappe transferred to Western Kentucky from Houston Baptist for his senior year and set a single-season FBS record with 5,987 passing yards, up 1,095. than the second best total. His 62 touchdowns (vs. 11 interceptions) in 14 games broke the record set by Joe Burrow in 15 games in 2019.

Stidham had at one point been considered a possibility as Brady’s heir, but Jones jumped on him as a rookie and took the Patriots back to the playoffs last year. If Belichick has dropped Stidham, Zappe could be his next long-term project at quarterback. Or it could mean the end of Hoyer’s third stint in New England.

SIR. JONES AND… MR. JONES

Two new defensive backs will help ease the departure of JC Jackson, who signed with the Los Angeles Chargers after leading the NFL with 23 passes defended last season, finishing second with eight interceptions and making his first Pro Bowl.

The Patriots took Houston cornerback Marcus Jones with the 85th pick and Arizona State defensive back Jack Jones with the No. 121. They join a New England defensive backfield that already included Jonathan Jones.

Marcus Jones had five interceptions for the Cougars last season and also had four touchdowns on the special team – scoring on two kickoffs and two punts. It earned him first-team AP All-American honors as a returner.

Jack Jones led Southern California in interceptions as a sophomore, but was later ruled academically ineligible as a junior. He was kicked off the team after he was caught breaking into a restaurant; he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor.

Jones, 24, spent a season at Moorpark College before transferring to Arizona State. Things went well in 2019, when he intercepted three passes, but he was suspended the following season. He returned to play in 11 games last year, collecting three more assists — the most among Pac-12 corners — and recording 42 tackles.

MOVE

In typical Belichick fashion, there was a lot of back and forth.

The Patriots fell eight spots to take Strange to 29th overall, picking up a third- and fourth-round pick in the process. On day two, they moved up to take Thornton at No. 50, took Marcus Jones at No. 85, then bailed out from the No. 94 spot, securing a fourth round and third the next year from Carolina.

It was the 18th consecutive draft that New England made at least one trade.

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