The New England Patriots, who start their 2018 mandatory minicamp today, currently have the maximum of 90 players on their active roster. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive the cutdowns on September 1 and ultimately make the team. Over the next weeks, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots recapture the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Today, the series starts with the player wearing the lowest-issued jersey number right now: backup quarterback Brian Hoyer.
Name: Brian Hoyer
Jersey number: 2
Opening day age: 32
Size: 6’2, 215 lbs.
2017 review: Brian Hoyer, who spent the first three years of his NFL career in New England, began the 2017 season with the San Francisco 49ers. The journeyman's first year with the team – Hoyer signed a two-year free agency contract in March – saw him earn the starting quarterback position over the course of the summer. However, his stint as San Francisco's number one passer proved to be an unsuccessful one.
Hoyer started the first six games of the season and completed 119 of 205 passing attempts (58.0%) for 1,245 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions. His rather mediocre play did not provide any spark to the 49ers offense and the team started the year with an 0-6 record. Midway through the sixth contest, Hoyer was benched in favor of C.J. Beathard – he never played another snap in San Francisco.
On October 30, shortly after the 49ers made a trade with the Patriots to acquire Jimmy Garoppolo, Hoyer was released. Two days later, he signed a three-year, $4.82 million contract with New England to replace Garoppolo as Tom Brady's backup. In that role, he saw action in five total regular season contests, playing a combined 23 offensive snaps as a late-game substitution in lopsided Patriots victories.
Hoyer, who also received three kneel-down snaps late in the divisional playoff round, finished his first season back in New England with four completions on six attempts, gaining 42 yards – all while backing up Brady on the way to a Patriots Super Bowl berth.
2018 preview: With Brady the Patriots' undisputed starter, Hoyer enters preparations for the 2018 season as the team's number two quarterback. However, as opposed to last year, his spot on the team is not uncontested: New England added LSU product Danny Etling in the seventh round of the draft to potentially challenge the 32-year old for the number two spot behind the future Hall of Famer.
But while Etling might very well be able to make the team with a good summer, the number two gig still appears to be Hoyer's to lose. After all, he offers plenty of experience within the Patriots' system and – despite the drop-off in quality – could step in immediately to take over for Brady if the worst case scenario takes place. Releasing Hoyer would furthermore cost New England salary cap space this season.
All in all, it therefore seems likely that Hoyer will spend another year with the Patriots and another season sitting behind the greatest quarterback of all time. And while he is not as flashy a backup option as Jimmy Garoppolo was, Hoyer should still be considered one of the better depth quarterbacks in the NFL. And at a cap hit of just $915,000, he certainly brings plenty of value to the team.