Mac Jones will very likely return to his role as the New England Patriots starting quarterback when he's fully recovered from an ankle sprain. The idea that Bailey Zappe could potentially replace Jones, however, might not be so far-fetched.

Since Zappe led the Patriots to a 29-0 win over the Detroit Lions Sunday, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has passed up multiple opportunities to proclaim that Jones will undoubtedly start when he's healthy.

"I'm not going to get into a lot of hypotheticals on all those different things that might or might not happen," Belichick told WEEI Monday. "That's just, to me, a waste of time. I'm not going to sit around and dream up scenarios and all of that. We'll take things as they come and go from there."

On Wednesday, Belichick was once again asked if Jones would be the starting quarterback when he's ready to play.

"We'll see," Belichick told reporters.

Belichick noted that Jones' timeline to return is independent of Zappe's play. New England won't rush Jones back onto the field if Zappe struggles.

A fourth-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, Zappe made his debut in Week 4 against the Green Bay Packers. Brian Hoyer suffered a concussion in the first quarter, starting for the injured Jones. Zappe completed 10 of 15 passes for 99 yards and a touchdown, nearly leading the Patriots to an upset win at Lambeau Field.

In his first start, Zappe completed all but four of his 21 attempts. The rookie finished with 188 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception. Zappe has posted a triple-digit passer rating in both games. The 23-year-old has also thrown for fewer than 300 yards and largely been a game-manager while New England's ground game carried the offense.

Any decision to keep Zappe in the lineup might have more to do with the way that Jones has played this season. Before getting hurt, Jones had two touchdown passes and five interceptions in three games. Jones had a 76.2 passer rating in New England's 1-2 start.

Jones played better than any quarterback who was selected in the first round of last year's draft. The former Alabama quarterback led the Patriots to the playoffs for the first time since Tom Brady's departure. Jones finished his rookie campaign with 3,801 yards, 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

Jones also ended last season on a particularly bad note. He threw a pair of interceptions in New England's 47-17 loss against the Buffalo Bills in the wild-card round of the playoffs. Jones has thrown for more touchdowns than interceptions in just one of his last nine games.

It's unclear when Jones will be ready to play. The quarterback has been expected to miss multiple games, though he reportedly made a push not to miss anytime at all. Jones should still be considered the heavy favorite to be New England's starter for the second half of the season.

Jones was selected to the Pro Bowl in his first season. Zappe has yet to throw for 190 yards or multiple touchdowns in a single game.

The Patriots visit the Cleveland Browns in Week 6.

Mac Jones, New England Patriots
Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots throws while warming up near the sideline during the game against the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium on September 25, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images