There was a stretch of about five or six years when the Patriots' backup quarterback didn’t matter because Tom Brady simply never missed a game, got hurt or showed human weaknesses. Brady was masterful in the pocket and quick to get out of trouble, so injuries were hardly a concern.
Damon Huard, Rohan Davey, Jim Miller, Doug Flutie, Matt Cassel, Matt Gutierrez, don’t worry about a thing. Sit there, hold the clipboard and work on your tan. Well, that frame of mind was all good and fine until you-know-what happened and Cassel became a rock star. In light of Brady's 2008 injury, the question this season has been, if the Patriots need Brian Hoyer, can he do it?
For starters, Hoyer has done a really sound job of transitioning from mediocre college quarterback into highly-thought-upon Patriots backup. The Michigan State product went undrafted in 2009 and got off to a rocky start at the Patriots' rookie camp, but he got more reps than a typical backup because of Brady's limitations after the knee injury.
There was an open competition to be Brady's backup after Cassel was traded to the Chiefs. First, 2008 third-rounder Kevin O'Connell flopped, then Gutierrez and finally Andrew Walter, who might have actually had steam coming out of his ears after the Patriots did away with him.
Obviously, O'Connell, Gutierrez and Walter wouldn’t exactly go on the Mount Rushmore of backup quarterbacks, but it still said plenty about Hoyer's development that the Patriots would stick with an undrafted rookie over two guys who had been in the system and another who had actual off-the-bench experience.
Hoyer got in five games as a rookie, completing 19-of-27 passes for 142 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. He was also sacked twice and ran for one touchdown. The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder saw his most extensive action in the regular-season finale against the Texans — a game that Hoyer said did wonders for his growth as an NFL quarterback — and he completed 8-of-12 passes for 71 yards, and moved the ball late in the game to give the Patriots a spark.
Then, during the Patriots' month of offseason practices, Hoyer did a good job of taking command of the offense. He looked steady through many drills, including seven-on-sevens and full-squad two-minute drills.
Again, Hoyer's development during the last year and a half has been impressive, and it likely contributed to the Patriots' desire to address other, greater needs in the 2010 draft.
If the Patriots need to count on Hoyer at any point this season, don’t expect him to perform like Cassel in 2008, but Hoyer appears to be competent and comfortable enough to handle the role with a degree of success.
NESN.com will be answering one Patriots question every day until July 24.
July 10: Should the Patriots bring back the screen game?
July 12: How can the Patriots get more production out of their tight ends?
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