Cleveland, OH – Despite making the trip to Cleveland and being listed as questionable, Patriots quarterback Mac Jones is officially inactive for Sunday's game vs. the Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium.
The second-year quarterback will miss his third consecutive game due to a high-ankle sprain that Jones suffered in a 37-26 loss to the Ravens in Week 3. Rookie Bailey Zappe will make his second NFL start.
Along with Jones, the following players are inactive for the Patriots vs. the Browns on Sunday: LB Josh Uche (hamstring), CB Jonathan Jones (ankle), WR Nelson Agholor (hamstring), RB Damien Harris (hamstring), DL Lawrence Guy (shoulder), DB Joshuah Bledsoe.
Zappe led the Patriots to an impressive 29-0 victory over the Lions last week but did so in a much different offense than Jones piloted in the first three games of the season.
With the rookie at quarterback, the Pats relied more on under-center play-action attempts and fewer downfield throws. Although it wasn't as explosive in the passing game, the results were good, as the conservative approach led to fewer turnovers and a cleaner offensive performance.
Since the Browns run defense ranks dead-last in Football Outsiders' DVOA metric, New England can use the same formula offensively by featuring its top-ranked rushing attack and incorporating safer play-action throws.
However, the Patriots rushing attack will need to lead the way without one-half of its potent duo, as running back Damien Harris will miss Sunday's game due to a hamstring injury.
Harris, who also made the trip with a questionable status, suffered the injury during last week's win against Detroit. Without the fourth-year running back, Rhamondre Stevenson set a new career-high in rushing yards with 161 yards on 25 attempts.
Earlier this week, the Patriots signed rookie running back Kevin Harris to the 53-man roster from the practice squad. Harris joins fellow 2022 draftee Pierre Strong on the game-day roster to provide depth behind Stevenson. Harris projects as an early-down back who primarily carries the football, while Strong is being developed in a change-of-pace role and passing game contributor.
Although the rookies could spell him some, expect another hefty workload for Stevenson on Sunday.
New England will also go another week without veteran run-stopper Lawrence Guy against Cleveland's elite rushing attack. Guy, who was questionable with a shoulder injury, is inactive for the third-straight game.
Without Guy, the Patriots will likely lean on a three-man defensive line featuring Christian Barmore and Deatrich Wise as defensive ends, with nose tackle Davon Godchaux in the middle.
Lastly, after missing last week's game, tight end Jonnu Smith is active after a one-week absence. We should see plenty of heavy formations featuring six offensive linemen and potentially both Smith and Hunter Henry on the field to attack the Browns weakness in run defense.
The Patriots and Browns will kick off at 1 pm ET on Sunday.