In the time leading up to the beginning of training camp, we will be bringing you previews for each New England Patriots positional group. We will begin with the quarterbacks.
Despite having one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game on the roster, this positional battle will actually be very intense come training camp. Obviously Tom Brady is entrenched as the starter, and there is nothing (aside from injury) that will change this. However Ryan Mallett and Jimmy Garoppolo will both be competing for the backup job, and I think it will get pretty interesting as move towards September.
The way I see it, Mallett is the better player, but Garoppolo has the untapped potential. From what I heard coming out of minicamp, Garoppolo took advantage of Mallett being limited, and really impressed the beat reporters. He has an extremely quick delivery, and can make all the throws needed on an NFL field. With that said, he can’t match Mallett’s arm strength, or experience, as Mallett has been in the league for a couple of years (albeit rarely seeing action).
To jump over Mallett on the depth chart, Garoppolo must not only show that he can hang with the former Razorback in terms of arm talent, but also in looking past youthful mistakes. It is impossible for first year players to avoid bad mistakes. It is part of the game of football. But where the great ones excel, is in putting the slip ups behind them, and working to fix it. Rookies have to experience failure in order to succeed, even in training camp, before any real action has taken place.
Garoppolo will throw into double coverage. He will fumble the ball. And I am sure that he will make the wrong read so many times, that Bill Belichick and the coaching staff will simply shake their head in frustration. But if Garoppolo shows that he has the presence to put the mistakes behind him, and attempt to correct them, he might just find himself designated as the backup to Brady.
Now after saying all of that, I think Mallett will walk out of training camp as the number two signal caller. There is just too much for Garoppolo to overcome. Mallett already knows the offense, he knows the receiving corps, and of course, his arm is absolutely ridiculous. I am pulling for Garoppolo to continue to progress as a rookie, but I think Mallett will ultimately win the job. That experience is key. Learning an offense as complicated as this one is tough, and Garoppolo is already a few years behind Mallett.
It will be extremely fun to see these two battle it out in a few weeks. I honestly can say that this is one of the competitions I am looking forward to the most. On the one hand, you have Garoppolo, the talented rookie, and on the other, you have Mallett, the scrutinized veteran. The backup quarterback is one of the most important jobs on the team, because they are second in command. They have to know the offense almost as well as the starter does, and that is where this job will be won. Whoever can show that they know this offense best, will become the backup to Tom Brady.