Patriots Training Camp Preview: Quarterback

May 24, 2012; Foxborough, MA USA; New England Patriots quarterbacks Tom Brady (left) , Ryan Mallett (15) and Brian Hoyer (8) stand next to head coach Bill Belichick on the practice field during organized team activities at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-US PRESSWIRE

Happy Training Camp week, everyone! Over the next few days leading into and throughout training camp, I'll be highlighting and previewing a particular position each day. We'll take a look at projected starter(s), the player with most to prove and the player with most to learn. We'll also see who has the inside track to making the 53-man roster.

Since the year 2001, the phrase "Quarterback Controversy" has never even been uttered in a sentence, when one is talking about the New England Patriots. For the exception of 2008, when an injury derailed him, Tom Brady has been the team's starting quarterback.

When he broke into the league back in 2001, Brady set the tone early, winning a Super Bowl in his first ever season as a starting quarterback. He never really looked back after that moment--winning two more Super Bowls, earning two NFL MVP awards, being selected to seven pro bowls, and establishing himself as the greatest quarterback in franchise history and one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.

Even at age 34, Brady is still one of the best, if not the best, at his position. Heading into his thirteenth NFL season, Brady will still be the team's starting quarterback. But that's just a hunch...

With Brady being the clear top choice to be the starting quarterback in 2012, the real competition (if any) is for the backup position. The Patriots had four quarterbacks at one point this offseason, but they decided to cut ties with former Kentucky quarterback Matt Hartline back in May. This leaves us with the original three they had.

Fourth-year pro Brian Hoyer will have to once again beat out now second-year pro Ryan Mallett for the title of Brady's backup. But heading into this season, there's a lot more on both's minds heading into 2012.

Projected Starter: Tom Brady

Again, this is a no-brainer, unless you've been in a coma for the past twelve years. Brady is clearly the best quarterback on his team, in his division, in his conference, and arguably in his league. After another sustaining another Super bowl loss to the Giants, Brady's hunger to redeeem himself should be on display in 2012.

Even at age 34, Brady can still do it all. He's the best quarterback in the pocket, and he gives this team the "best chance to win", as Bill Belichick says. However, it won't be too long before he'll begin to decline. But I don't like to think about that.

Most To Prove: Brian Hoyer

I chose Hoyer for the quarterback who has the most to prove, for one reason and one reason only: To build trade value.

Because he most likely won't receive a whole lot playing time during the regular season, Hoyer will have to showcase his abilities during training camp and the preseason. He's been pegged by many as one of the top backups the game has to offer, so he'll likely have to continue to prove himself as a possible starter if other teams are in the market for a quarterback.

I'm a fan of Hoyer's as much as the next guy, but he won't be our starting quarterback unless something bad happens to Tom Brady. If the Patriots get a good offer for him, they have to at least consider trading him. He's still young, he had a great mentor, and he's shown flashes of brilliance. We just can't guarantee that he'll be the same player down the road, when Brady hangs up his cleats. (See Cassel, Matt)

Most To Learn: Ryan Mallett

Coming out of the University of Arkansas two years ago, there were a lot of teams that passed on him during the draft. It wasn't until the third round when the Patriots were the ones to chose the elite college quarterback. Many believed when they made that selection, that he'd be the eventual successor to Tom Brady. It's really hard to disagree with that statement.

Mallett is younger than Brian Hoyer, and will likely take more time to develop into a starting quarterback than Hoyer will. This seems to be perfect for the Patriots, who can still get several years of football out of Tom Brady.

Why I peg Mallett as the one who still has a lot to learn, because he's the youngest of the bunch. Coming out of Arkansas, Mallett had a lot of teams pass on him because of rising character concerns. While we haven't heard anything out of Foxboro about something like that, it's something that needs to be fully eliminated.

There's also the football aspect of it. Mallett, at times, showed some promise as a rookie during the preseason. He's not quite as precise and as calm as Brady is, but he's a lot more mobile than Brady ever was. Still, as a second-year player, he's still got a lot to learn before his days as a starting quarterback begin.

Final Outlook

Projected Depth Chart:

  1. Tom Brady
  2. Brian Hoyer
  3. Ryan Mallett

Cuts:

None

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