New England Patriots

Could Malik Cunningham play ‘significant' role in Patriots-Bills?

The Patriots reportedly are "looking for a lot more" at the quarterback position.

NBC Universal, Inc.

Desperate times may call for desperate measures.

The New England Patriots enter this Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills with a 1-5 record and the NFL's second-worst scoring offense at 12 points per game. They've scored just 20 points total in their last three games (all losses) and at one point allowed 79 unanswered points during that stretch.

The Patriots tried to mix things up in Week 6 by elevating undrafted rookie quarterback/wide receiver Malik Cunningham to the active roster as Mac Jones' primary backup. Cunningham made a marginal impact, however, playing just six snaps and taking a sack while getting zero offensive touches in a 21-17 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders.

It sounds like we haven't seen the last of Cunningham, though. According to ESPN's Dan Graziano, the Patriots' coaching staff is "discussing ways to work Cunningham into the game plan in a somewhat significant way, possibly as early as this week against Buffalo."

The Patriots are "looking for a lot more from the quarterback position than what Mac Jones is giving them," Graziano wrote, and Cunningham could provide " a different look at the position" with designed quarterback runs and movement in the pocket to "help diversify and expand the passing game."

Offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien played coy Tuesday, when asked about the dual-threat rookie, claiming Cunningham's role will be determined on a "week-to-week" basis. But at this point in the season, there's really no downside to getting Cunningham more involved.

That's due in part to Jones' uninspiring play: The third-year quarterback has committed seven turnovers (five interceptions and two fumbles) with zero touchdown passes in his last three games and ranks 30th in the NFL in passer rating (74.4). It's also a reflection of New England's complete lack of explosive talent on offense: The Patriots don't have a single pass-catcher outside Kendrick Bourne averaging more than 50 yards per game and rank last in the league with just five plays of at least 25 yards.

Add it all up, and it means the Patriots may turn to an undrafted rookie who's bounced around between quarterback, wide receiver and special teams to provide any sort of offensive spark.

Kickoff for Patriots-Bills is set for Sunday at 1 p.m. ET at Gillette Stadium, with New England currently an 8.5-point underdog.

Contact Us