The Patriots will officially start rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe against the Detroit Lions at Gillette Stadium on Sunday.
As expected, starting quarterback Mac Jones (ankle) is officially inactive for the second consecutive week. After suffering a high-ankle sprain in Week 3, Jones made progress during the week and practiced in a limited capacity. However, Jones was significantly limited in all three sessions and now turns his attention to making his return next week in Cleveland.
Along with Jones, tight end Jonnu Smith (ankle) is also inactive after being listed as doubtful heading into Sunday's game. Rookie running back Pierre Strong, cornerback Shaun Wade, and defensive back Joshuah Bledsoe are healthy inactives for New England.
With Zappe starting at quarterback and practice-squad addition Garrett Gilbert serving as his backup, the Patriots offense is getting reinforcements at the wide receiver position via the NFL debut of second-round pick Tyquan Thornton and the return of Jakobi Meyers. The team activated Thornton to the 53-man roster on Saturday, and now the speedy wideout is officially active.
Thornton's 4.28-second 40-yard dash translated throughout training camp with his vertical burst to stretch the field and separation quickness at the top of the route flashing all summer long. The rookie injured his collarbone in the Pats second preseason game, spending the first four weeks of the regular season on injured reserve.
Although Thornton brings excitement with his return, his debut also creates an even bigger logjam at wide receiver for New England. The Patriots will dress all six receivers on the active roster as Meyers returns after missing the last two weeks. With Kendrick Bourne already relegated to a smaller role compared to last season and Lil'Jordan Humphrey emerging as a key piece in the Pats running game, finding snaps for Thornton will be a challenge.
In the preseason, Thornton saw most of his snaps come in the Pats "Z" receiver role but also played on the boundary as an "X" receiver. With several veterans already holding down the Z/flanker spot, Thornton's most likely path to playing time is on the outside, where he could cut into DeVante Parker's playing time.
As we knew heading into the weekend, the Patriots defense will be without run-stopper Lawrence Guy (shoulder) for the second straight week. On a positive note, cornerback Jalen Mills returns after sitting out last week due to a hamstring injury.
The Patriots and the Lions will kick off at 1:00 pm ET at Gillette Stadium on Sunday.