Patriots Gridiron News: Mac Jones, Malik Cunningham and the big gamble in Vegas

New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones is expected to have a short leash in the team's Week 6 matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders; What role will Malik Cunningham play in the offense?
New Orleans Saints v New England Patriots
New Orleans Saints v New England Patriots / Winslow Townson/GettyImages

Will the New England Patriots find a way to turn their season around in Week 6 vs the Las Vegas Raiders, or will they continue to crumble?  That is the big question as the fates of both Bill Belichick and Mac Jones are on the line.

As much as Belichick is taking his own hits with the team off to a 1-4 record, Sunday could be a career defining game for Mac Jones, who is expected to have a short leash after back-to-back disastrous games against the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints.

Mac Jones, Patriots offense need to find a way to score points

With the Patriots offense scoring less points in the month of October than the Boston Red Sox, Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien must do something to create a spark.  That could come with the return of 2022 second-round pick Tyquan Thornton, turning more to the running game or whatever the team has in mind for QB/WR Malik Cunningham, who was signed to the roster on a three-year deal after spending the first five weeks of the season on the practice squad.

Whatever the plan is, Jones must limit mistakes and put the team in an early hole.  If the offense gets off to a slow start again, Patriots fans could see Bailey Zappe or Will Grier in this game.  Don’t be surprised with Cunningham gets some snaps at quarterback.

Obviously, it rests on the shoulder of Mac Jones who knows he must erase the misfortunes of the last two weeks and focus on playing a good game and beating the Raiders.

“I always talk about how, really, each week is a new week, and I know it's tough to say that when they kind of looked very similar, but it is. It's a new week, and we didn't play our best,” Jones told the media this week, via the team’s official website. “I didn't play my best in the last game, and we've moved on. Now, it's alright, we've got a really good opponent in the Raiders, and I'm going to focus on – like I talked about – communicating with the guys, having fun, and then doing my part as the quarterback and communicating on the sidelines and all that stuff. So, that will really help. I know it will. It's been proven to do that, and I think that's what I'll focus on and not really focus on the results. The results will come. You've got to stick with the process and the communication.”

Again, avoid early mistakes, execute and score some points early and the Patriots offense should be good to go.

Patriots buzz: What role will Malik Cunningham play?

When it was announced that Cunningham was signed to the active 53-man roster, the first through was that the undrafted rookie free agent would be a quarterback option.

That may not be the case in this game.  He could be used as a receiver or perhaps as a third running back option behind Rhamondre Stevenson and Ezekiel Elliot.  Whatever the case, Patriots head coach Bill Belihcick feels Cunningham has earned an opportunity to play (in whatever role that may be).


“Malik has really worked hard and made a lot of improvement,” Belichick said earlier this week.  “Anybody that keeps improving, eventually you’ll probably get an opportunity to play.”

Cunningham did show some flashes at the QB position during the preseason, but the thought was he needed more development at the position.  With his speed and quickness, inserting him as a WR/RB seems more realistic.  If it is at the QB position, that would be one big gamble for Belichick and the Patriots.  It could also be seen as a sign of desperation for a head coach who will be on the hotseat if the Patriots drop to 1-5 and the offense again looks less than pedestrian.

Speaking of gambles, you can bet on the New England Patriots having something up their sleeves to get a win this week, because they need one in the worst (or best) possible way.