The Patriots moved one step closer to declaring a starting quarterback for this week's road tilt against the Giants at MetLife Stadium.
New England released third-string quarterback Will Grier to make room for veteran offensive tackle Conor McDermott on the 53-man roster. McDermott needed to be added to the active roster from the practice squad because the team had used all three of his standard elevations this season. The Pats did not downgrade any players en route to New Jersey, meaning all seven questionable players made the trip with a chance to play on Sunday.
Although the door remains open for starting left tackle Trent Brown (ankle, questionable) to return after a two-game absence, McDermott is likely in line to start in Brown's place for the third consecutive game. The Patriots would then have the same starting offensive line as their game in Germany before the bye week: LT Conor McDermott, LG Cole Strange, C David Andrews, RG Sidy Sow, and RT Mike Onwenu.
At quarterback, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien indicated throughout the week that the starting competition was a two-horse race between incumbent Mac Jones and current backup Bailey Zappe. O'Brien outlined that getting more than two quarterbacks ready to play on Sunday would be challenging.
"The way we practice here, there's plenty of reps to go around," O'Brien began. "Now, can you do it with four guys? Three guys? No. But for two guys, there's enough reps to go around where everybody gets a shot at it. So, I don't think that's an issue at all. These guys run the same offense."
Some speculated that Grier could enter the race as an unknown compared to the two known commodities in the Patriots quarterback room, but it never seemed realistic for Grier to start. Although Jones and Zappe have proven to be limited, they had an entire offseason program, training camp, and in-season roles in O'Brien's system, whereas Grier joined the team in late September. With only so many practice reps, it was hard to envision Grier being ahead of Jones and Zappe. Since it's after the trade deadline, Grier will now pass through waivers before he can re-sign with the Pats practice squad.
According to reports, Jones and Zappe split reps during practice this week, as Coach Belichick stated several times that he told all the quarterbacks to be ready to play. Ultimately, we are still leaning toward Jones starting. But it could be a quick hook for the Pats struggling starter or even a planned rotation – we wouldn't rule anything out with Belichick.
With a decision looming, it's been an uncertain week at Gillette Stadium. All indications are that the team is still in the dark about who will start at quarterback vs. the Giants, but that could easily be gamesmanship on Belichick's part. Although it's difficult to keep information like this in-house, there's a good chance the team knows who will lead the offense on Sunday, even if it has yet to be announced to the public.
The Patriots roster for Sunday's road game against the Giants is now set with kickoff in the Meadowlands at 1 p.m. ET.