Quarterback changes are at hand on the Sunday of Week 4 of the NFL season. Zach Wilson makes his return for the New York Jets. Two backups, the New Orleans Saints’ Andy Dalton and the New England Patriots’ Brian Hoyer, make fill-in starts because of injuries to their teams’ starters.
The Saints ruled out starter Jameis Winston on Saturday because of back and ankle injuries. They initially had said after Winston sat out Wednesday’s practice that he was expected to practice Thursday. Instead, he didn’t practice all week. He reportedly had been playing in recent weeks with four fractures in his back.
Dalton signed with the Saints in March as a free agent. He is a three-time Pro Bowl selection and has made 148 career starts for the Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears. But this is his fourth team in four seasons. He has become an NFL nomad after spending his first nine seasons with the Bengals. He’ll try to help the Saints rebound from a 1-2 start. But they’ll also be without wide receiver Michael Thomas, who is sidelined because of a foot injury.
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Wilson, the No. 2 selection in last year’s NFL draft, makes the first start of his second pro season in the Jets’ early-afternoon game at Pittsburgh.
He underwent surgery after suffering a torn meniscus and a bone bruise in his right knee on a scramble during the Jets’ opening preseason game. Wilson has participated in only three full practices since then.
The Jets went 1-2 with veteran backup Joe Flacco filling in. They must hope the future is now with Wilson, who struggled last season as a rookie with nine touchdown passes, 11 interceptions and an unsightly passer rating of 69.7.
Hoyer attempts to keep the Patriots’ season from unraveling any further. But his task is formidable, with a late-afternoon game in Green Bay against quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.
Mac Jones, New England’s second-year starter, could miss multiple games after suffering a high ankle sprain in last Sunday’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Foxborough, Mass. Jones did make it back on the practice field Friday. But it never seemed realistic that he would attempt to play in this game. The Patriots officially ruled him out Friday.
Hoyer has made 39 starts in a journeyman career that has included stints with seven teams. He has made at least one start for each of the seven; this is his second start for the Patriots. He last led a team to a victory in a game he started in 2016 with the Bears.
If Hoyer struggles, it will be interesting to see if Coach Bill Belichick gives any consideration to turning to rookie Bailey Zappe, a fourth-round draft choice from Western Kentucky. The Patriots need a boost on offense. They’re ranked 10th in the league in total offense but are 25th in scoring offense. They have a record of 1-2.