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Analysis: Patriots QB Mac Jones (Ankle) Officially Questionable For Sunday's Game vs. Browns

The Pats quarterback practiced in a limited capacity throughout the week.

Patriots quarterback's Bailey Zappe (4) and Mac Jones (10).
Patriots quarterback's Bailey Zappe (4) and Mac Jones (10).

After making progress and practicing in a limited capacity throughout the week, Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (ankle) is officially questionable for Sunday's game vs. the Browns.

The Patriots starting quarterback has a chance to play this weekend after sitting out the last two games due to a high-ankle sprain. Jones suffered the injury during the Patriots loss to the Ravens in Week 3 but is beginning to ramp things up on the practice field this week.

New England also ruled out linebacker Josh Uche due to a hamstring injury and, along with Jones, listed nine players as questionable: WR Nelson Agholor (hamstring), DL Christian Barmore (knee), DL Lawrence Guy (shoulder), RB Damien Harris (hamstring), CB Jonathan Jones (ankle), LB Raekwon McMillan (thumb), WR Jakobi Meyers (knee), and TE Jonnu Smith (ankle).

As Jones nears a return, head coach Bill Belichick had an update on the quarterback's status before practice on Friday morning.

"Mac [Jones], I think, is making a good improvement. We'll see where he is today. Certainly, he's doing a lot more this last Thursday than he did last Thursday. I'd imagine Friday will be the same thing, but we'll see," head coach Bill Belichick told reporters.

Earlier this week, Belichick explained that the decision to return to Jones as his starting quarterback is not based on rookie Bailey Zappe's performance, suggesting it's a medical determination.

"They are totally independent. No, it doesn't have anything to do with it," Belichick said.

With the team traveling to Cleveland on Saturday, they might be heading for a situation where Belichick, in conjunction with Jones and the medical staff, will have to decide whether or not the second-year quarterback at less than 100 percent is a better option than a healthy Zappe.

Although he declined to comment specifically on Jones, Belichick spoke in general terms on how those decisions are made when a player is medically cleared but not yet at a full go.

"Once the player has been medically cleared to play, then I would say in consolation with the player and the medical staff, what is the player being asked to do? So, a kicker has a sore leg, and the decision is, well, he can kick field goals up to a certain range but wouldn't be able to kickoff. Alright, then, as a coach, that's your decision."

"You could say, alright ok, we'll take this player at, let's call it, 80%, and here's what his field goal range would be-80%. And he's not going to kick off and play under those circumstances assuming that the player also felt comfortable doing that. Right, so that kind of would be an example of a player playing at less than 100% but functional to a point," Belichick explained.

With the Patriots laying out a winning formula with Zappe last week, they could play it safe with Jones for one more week and rely on the rookie to manage the game again.

The Patriots coaching staff leaned more on the running game, shorter throws, and play-action pass attempts to limit the number of tight windows and downfield passes Zappe threw vs. the Lions. Although the offense isn't as explosive, the first-year QB had zero turnover-worthy plays, leading the Pats to scores on six of their nine drives in Week 5.

But in a day-by-day approach for the team and its starting quarterback, Jones is certainly making progress, and you can see him returning to action sooner rather than later.

Elsewhere on the injury report, defensive tackle Lawrence Guy (shoulder) and tight end Jonnu Smith (ankle) are also trending in the right direction. Guy has also missed the last two games with a shoulder injury, but his questionable status is a step in the right direction after he was ruled out on Friday last week ahead of the Lions game. Smith was listed as doubtful heading into Week 5 and is now progressing as a questionable designation.

Defensive tackle Christian Barmore (knee) was added to the injury report on Friday after being a limited participant in practice. Barmore was seen in the Patriots locker room following the session and was in good spirits, so hopefully, that is a good sign for his game status.

On a positive note, center David Andrews (back), corner Jalen Mills (hamstring), and rookie special-teamer DaMarcus Mitchell (concussion) were removed from the report and are good to go this week.

Lastly, the Browns ruled out premier edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney and Pro Bowl corner Denzel Ward for Sunday's game, a break for New England. Clowney, who pairs with Myles Garrett to create one of the NFL's best duos, is dealing with multiple injuries and will not play.

The Patriots will travel to Cleveland to face the Browns with kickoff at 1 pm ET on Sunday afternoon at FirstEnergy Stadium.

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