Both Cunningham and Bailey Zappe threw passes while Mac Jones didn’t throw according to ESPN’s Mike Reiss and NESN’s Zack Cox. Jones has been the starter all season, but his consistent struggles have led to the Patriots (2-9) exploring other options.
Cunningham, however, hasn’t seen time at quarterback in a game since the preseason minus a brief appearance against the Las Vegas Raiders in October. He has spent the season mainly at wide receiver in practices, which head coach Bill Belichick doubled down on during Wednesday’s press conference.
“We didn’t move him back anywhere. He’s been playing wide receiver all year. He’s also played some at quarterback,” Belichick said.
An undrafted free agent out of Louisville, Cunningham captured fans’ attention during training camp and the preseason. Cunningham scored a rushing touchdown in the preseason, which had fans clamoring for more of the rookie who once played behind Lamar Jackson in college.
Bill Belichick Sees ‘Unique’ Role for Malik Cunningham
Even Belichick has acknowledged Cunningham’s athleticism, and the Patriots invested him amid a rollercoaster of events for the rookie. New England ultimately kept Cunningham on the practice squad amid two waivers this year.
“Well, there are other players practicing at quarterback, as well. He’s not the only guy out there,” Belichick said. “It depends a little bit on the offense that we’re seeing.”
“So, if we are seeing offenses run plays that he’s very good at running, teams like Philadelphia, the first Miami game, then you know, he gets, I mean they’re practice squad reps but they’re also reps on things that he does.”
“So, he’s kind of a unique player,” Belichick said about Cunningham. “Things aren’t so straight-lined with him. He’s different than probably every other player that we have on the team. So, he’s handled a little differently.”
Amid Cunningham’s recent rise in practice, the Patriots brought back former practice squad quarterback Will Grier. Belichick noted that Grier could have a role but emphasized everyone “should be ready to play” in a game.
Bill Belichick on Mac Jones: ‘Every Player’s Trying to Improve
Before Jones took a backseat during the media session at practice, Belichick talked about generalities when asked about the Patriots’ beleaguered quarterback.
“Again, I think we’ve talked to all of the players about things that they need to do,” Belichick said regarding what Jones needs to work on. “We’ve been doing that all year. We took more time to do that in the bye week. Each player has certain things that we feel like they can focus on to improve, and they’re working on those.”
Jones notably sought outside help through his alma mater, Alabama, last year. Belichick wouldn’t get specific if Jones sought help again but instead resorted to generalities.
“Every player’s trying to improve, absolutely,” Belichick said. “Every player on our team is trying to improve. I don’t not see that from anybody, they’re all trying to improve. What can I do better? Work on it, whether it’s practice, meetings, fundamentals, communication, whatever it is. So, we’ll keep doing that.”