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Getting into Belichick's hood - 2010 New England Patriots QB predictions

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As mentioned in my previous story, I'm tasked with seeing if I can predict Belichick's pre-season coaching decisions. Given there's sooooooooo many (believe me, it's only when you start writing up articles of this description that you realise how many franchise-tweaking decisions a GM/HC makes), I'll break down the personnel decisions by looking at each unit or set of units from the roster, and then guesstimating what Hoodie will do with them in turn.

For no better reason than they're at the top of the list I wrote up, I'll look at the current state of the Patriots' QBs, offer an analysis of the incumbents, and then prognosticate on what Hoodie will do to patch holes, upgrade, get youth or experience, all as necessary. Or as the case may be, not necessary.

As I explained in my previous one of the series, I've projected two roster slots for QB (albeit with two more being QB/WRs). Now I just have to fill them. More after the jump...

First up: QB. Pretty easy position, right? Just to summarise who the Pats have already got on the roster...



1       Tom Brady
          I'll assume you know Brady's the Pats QB. He's pretty good, so I'm fairly safe in the assumption he's starter (unless you're really, really, really wanting to make the case for Hoyer. Anyone? Mrs. Hoyer?

         A note on Brady - he's coming to the end of his contract. Will the Pats start looking for life after Brady, as some have half-heartedly suggested? This proposition has a snowball's chance in hell. The guy is the heart-and-soul of the Pats dynasty; he's also been a trooper for the franchise and continually asked for a lesser salary than he could rightfully command in order to make the team stronger (Eli Manning, top-paid QB. 'Nuff said). 

         Brady isn't going anywhere. That comes straight from Hoodie's mouth - when asked about the Wilfork situation, he said that anybody on the team was potentially expendible as trade-bait, except for Tom Brady.

2       Brian Hoyer
         A 2009 rookie undrafted free agent, it seems the Pats were tossing up between Hoyer and Edelman for the draft choice they used on Edelman. When Hoyer dropped through the draft into undrafted free agency, the Pats were delighted to snag him as a free agent. In other words, he wasn't a complete bolt from the blue - the Pats had an eye on Hoyer as NFL material for months, and he featured on the draft boards right up until the last minute.

Everything I've seen suggests Hoyer has the inside running for being the second-string QB in 2010:

         Firstly, there's simple pragmatism - if Hoodie was happy enough to have him as the primary (and only!) backup in his rookie season in 2009, I don't see why Belichick would change his mind in 2010.

         Secondly, Hoyer beat out the incumbent back-up QB in 2009 - 3rd round draft choice Kevin O'Connell - so Belichick has more-or-less invested a draft pick in the kid by cutting his previously drafted competitor. You can only assume that the choice to cut a high round guy in favour of the undrafted rookie means that Hoyer showed a lot of promise in training camp. The choice is even more poignant if you take into consideration that O'Connell had a year in the system and a rapport with some of the WRs; he had a huge head-start on Hoyer. Hoyer beating out O'Connell, then, was quite a surprise - but the Pats have had amazing success stories with just those kinds of surprises at QB. Consider this: in 2001, Tom Brady beat out two very experienced QBs in training camp to be Bledsoe's primary backup, (and that worked out pretty well, right?). In 2008, the franchise went with Matt Cassel  over Guterriez despite Guterriez having arguably better preseason performances. When Brady got hurt, Cassel took over and the rest is history. So when the Pats know a little about choosing one backup QB over another; Hoyer's the next in the string.

         Thirdly, his performances thus far are pretty good. In his limited snaps for the Pats (around 60 in the season, and a few preseason games), Hoyer showed nothing that would suggest he's not a competent NFL backup. In fact, he actually looked pretty good and strung together a decent drive or two in a few games, something that even Brady could struggle to do at times. Successfully managing the offence and not having a brain explosion at NFL game speed is quite an achievement for a rookie; Curtis Painter couldn't do it for the Colts, and it's not like he had a bad offence to manage. The signs are pretty good.

         Overall, then, If Hoyer was good enough to be the number 2 guy in 2009, he ought to be an even better number 2 in 2010. He's done nothing to knock the faith the organisation showed in him in 2009. Of course, there are no guarantees, so I'll continue...

(3       Isaiah Stanback)
          Designated the emergency QB in a handful of games in 2009, Stanback alternated between the WR depth chart and the QB ranks. He's projected as a WR again, but he provides a valuable depth option at both positions without eating up a valuable roster slot. If for no other reason than it's useful to save a roster slot by having the 3rd QB also be able to fill in as the 5th or 6th receiver (or vice versa, depending on what you see him as), I'd imagine Stanback keeps a roster slot.

(4       Julian Edelman)
          The emergency QB who isn't. He offers the same positional flexibility as Stanback, although he has an arm that Brady once joked was so bad that he didn't believe Edelman was actually a college QB. He said it as a jibe at the rookie, but a lot of truth is said in jest...

          Do I imagine that Edelman will ever need to fill in at QB? No. But it's nice to know that if something catastrophic happens in a game to Brady, Hoyer and Stanback, at least someone on the roster has taken snaps behind center.

2010 Patriot needs
         
          There's no glaring needs for the Pats at QB in 2010. I suppose you could argue that the Pats should/would/could have a vet QB in camp for the season, on the basis of just in case. But if the Pats didn't feel that was necessary for 2009, I'm not sure why they'd change philosophy in 2010, especially now Hoyer has had a year, 60 game-time snaps, and a lot of NFL-style practice under his belt. On the flipside, I wouldn't entirely rule out the Pats nabbing a vet QB, especially with the intent of having Hoyer battle it out in the preseason. So if they have a "need", perhaps it's competition for Hoyer to keep the guy sharp in the preseason.

Ways to fill the need

1       Free agency.
         If the Pats are likely to pick up competition for Hoyer, there's a very good chance they'll take a journeyman vet QB free agent. In 2009 the Pats interviewed a few vet QBs, and a couple even made their way into the Pats training facilities for workouts, but none were signed. This is the modus operandi for the Pats (and other franchises, especially those with a Parcells-esque "churning the roster" bent) - bring in outsiders, have a look at the goods, and maybe come back to them if there's signs of an injury. 

         Given there's only two genuine QBs in camp, I would expect to see the Pats sign one or two for training camp bodies, and then cut them loose at the roster cutdown marks. I wouldn't expect any of the signees to stick around beyond those cutdowns, though.

         Just to give a taste of who is in free agency (remember, only before the first roster cutbacks - there will always be a lot cut in week 3 of training camp):

Chad Pennington
Kyle Boller
Charlie Batch
David Carr
Daunte Culpepper
Rex Grossman
Chris Redman

         A few of these guys will be looking for starting-gigs. A few of them might be lured by the chance of a Ring. Do any of them really scream "pick me, pick me", though?  (Writer's note: I admit to a nostalgic feeling that Chad Pennington deserves a Ring; I like his attitude - happily helping and coaching rookies who are being groomed to take his job is classy, and he's done it in several places).

2       Draft
         The Pats have a penchant for picking up QBs in the draft under Belichick, whether they need them or not. Partly it seems to be experimentation, partly a need for competition, and partly a use of conditional draft picks under a "what if he actually works out" scheme. They've taken 5 QBs in the draft under Belichick's reign - a third rounder in O'Connell, a fourth rounder in Rohan Davey, and then a scattering of 6th and 7th rounders to complete the set. They've also been fairly consistent in taking them - one each in the 2000, 2002, 2003, 2006 and 2008 drafts. If you include Hoyer (who was *this* close to being drafted), one in 2009, too. There's no guarantee they'll make the team - O'Connell, Davey, and Kingsbury could all be considered busts - but there's always the chance the Pats will take a project/depth/speculation QB with a low-rounder.

       As a side-note to this: I don't think the "draft Tebow" thing is likely. And IF the Pats take him, I even more sincerely doubt it'll be as a QB. If you really want to make a case for Tebow, I'll be happy to read it below and entertain some discussion. Before this is inundated with Tebow-talk, though, I'll give a few thoughts on him...

       First theory: Tebow as a Brady backup? No; I don't think Tebow has the requisite NFL arm-strength or accuracy to be a Pats QB. The Pats already have two ex-QBs of questionable arm-strength and accuracy - Edelman and Stanback. Neither of them were considered quite good enough QBs due to their deficiencies - Edelman as a strict QB, and Stanback as a WR who occasionally provided depth at emergency QB. I find it very unlikely that Belichick would backtrack on his use of Edelman and Stanback and choose to use a high-round draft pick on a guy who suffers the same problems as the QBs who are rated high enough to be pure QBs now

      Second theory: So the Pats will take Tebow for the Wildcat? No. Edelman and Stanback are both very good runners (Edelman particularly so), yet the Pats showed no interest in the Wildcat thus far. The Pats didn't want a Wildcat after it was one year old (and after defensive coordinators had one year to devise schemes against it); it's even more unlikely they'd want one that's two years old (ditto on DC schemes).

      Also, the Pats have seen, first hand, a high-round draft choice Wildcat-specific QB flop. That would be Pat White, 'Phins Wildcat QB. White hardly set the NFL alight, and he failed to do it in the very system that pioneered the 'Cat in the NFL. His failure to take over the Wildcat would be a reason to avoid Tebow.


3      Trade
        I find a trade rather unlikely. The Pats seem pretty happy with Hoyer at #2, so any additions would likely slot into the #3 role - and there are always #3-quality QBs in free agency. If they didn't trade for a guy to slot above Hoyer in his rookie year, why would they do it in his second season?

There you go, people. That's what I think Hoodie will do with the QB position for 2010 - very little. Unless you're really convinced that he'll take Tebow, perhaps.

However, I do promise a change-up in the next of the series: HBs.