As if there isn’t enough mystery in the Patriots quarterback room already, with one player—Mac Jones—on the 53-man roster, 2022 fourth-round pick Bailey Zappe demoted to the practice squad and multi-positional undrafted free agent Malik Cunningham also on board, now there is Matt Corral, claimed off NFL waivers this week to be New England’s No. 2 guy.
We know Corral has talent, because he was a third-round pick by the Panthers in 2022 out of Mississippi. But we know nothing else—he has not appeared in an NFL game yet, having suffered a foot injury last year in preseason.
One guy with some knowledge of Corral’s career is Panthers beat writer Joe Person of The Athletic, and he talked with Patriots beat man Tom Curran this week about Corral. The gist of the conversation was that Corral is worth a look, but there is something of concern for Patriots fans here—the Panthers did not think Corral was ready to be a backup.
“The Panthers think he is at least a year away from being someone who can help them if he was pressed into service with an injury or whatever,” Person said. “A lot of that is because he did not run a real complex offense at Ole Miss under (coach) Lane Kiffin. It was not completely simplified but it was not what you would call pro-ready type stuff. Then, he doesn’t get any time last year (because of the injury).”
Corral Is Not Ready for Backup Duty
Basically, Corral appears to be not much different than Zappe—a guy with talent who needs to learn more complex NFL offenses and might not quite be ready even for backup duty. He is not particularly big as quarterbacks go (listed at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds) and, like Zappe, he had some preseason struggles. Corral played in three preseason games, attempting 47 passes with 28 completions for 249 yards. He threw no touchdowns and had one interception.
The Panthers selected Bryce Young as their quarterback with the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft, though, and the team did the sensible thing when making a young player the starter—they got a polished veteran backup, Andy Dalton.
With Jones under center, the Patriots probably should have done the same. Instead, they’ve got Corral.
“Matt Corral, if he had snuck through waivers, would have been a fine practice squad player,” Person said. “He missed his entire rookie year, got hurt at Gillette Stadium, you’ll remember, the preseason, Lisfranc (left foot injury). He really needs, this is his rookie year redux. The Panthers were cool with doing that on the practice squad but not on the 53-man.”
Corral Had Supporters in Carolina
That’s not to say Corral can’t play. Before overhauling the team’s staff and picking Young, there were many who were behind Corral as the quarterback of the future.
“I can tell you, (coach) Matt Rhule and Ben McAdoo were very high on Matt Corral,” Person said. “Ben McAdoo had a short stint here, one-year stint as offensive coordinator, but he really banged the table for Matt Corral. … He’s interesting, he’s worth taking a look at.”
If there is one element of Corral’s game that could get him on the field for New England, it is his ability to run. He is not especially speedy, but Corral has a knack for making hay out of a broken play. As a senior at Mississippi, he rushed for 604 yards and 11 touchdowns, in addition to throwing for 20 TDs.
“He made a play in the Lions game, and this is what he used to do at Ole Miss, he breaks out of the pocket, goes 27 yards on a scramble, and afterwards he said, ‘My left foot is fixed, man!’” Person said. “That’s what he brings you. He has the off-platform ability to make plays for you. It’s worth a flier for the Patriots.”
Maybe. But this group of quarterbacks has enough unknowns already.
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