Ryan Mallett Having Solid Patriots Training Camp, Must Prove It In Preseason

Ryan MallettOne solid practice and a national perspective is all it took for the Ryan Mallett hype train to nearly speed off the rails.

Mallett has had a strong but unspectacular training camp for the New England Patriots, but the fourth-year pro hardly has looked like a “legitimate NFL starting quarterback,” as NFL Media’s Mike Mayock ascertained after watching Monday’s joint practice between the Patriots and Redskins. Mallett is having the best training camp of his career, but quite frankly, that’s not saying much.

Mallett struggled through his first three summers, and he’s showed progress in the past week and a half. Mallett is delivering the ball quickly with improved accuracy, but he still has dealt with his fair share of incompletions and interceptions.

Mallett is stuck in a similar situation as he was in last year’s training camp — looking unimpressive behind starting quarterback Tom Brady and Godlike in comparison to rookie signal-caller Jimmy Garoppolo (and Tim Tebow last year).

I’ve tried to keep the Mallett-hype light this summer, because he needs to prove it in the preseason before his performance is to be taken completely seriously. Mallett has never completed more than 57.1 percent of his passes during the preseason, and he’s never averaged more than 5.9 yards per attempt — he’s also facing second-string defenses. Mallett is looking better this year, but the former Arkansas QB still is too inconsistent to be given a shot as a team’s starter.

Mallett trade rumors have circulated for years, but they always stem from a close, personal friend of head coach Bill Belichick. The Cleveland Browns (and current Patriots staffer Mike Lombardi), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (and Belichick’s buddy Greg Schiano) and Houston Texans (and former New England offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien) have reportedly shown interest in Mallett in the past, but those rumors are likely being spread to drum up interest from other NFL teams. Otherwise, it seems odd that Belichick and his buddies can’t come to an agreement for compensation.

A Mallett trade is unlikely at this point anyway, since any draft pick that the Patriots could fetch for the backup quarterback would hold less value than a quality backup quarterback. Garoppolo hasn’t proven much this summer, but he has demonstrated — so far — that he can’t be counted on as Brady’s No. 2.

Mallett is a player to watch during the preseason and throughout next offseason. How he performs this summer will dictate his value in free agency next spring. Mallett still could wind up living up to his hype and becoming a “legitimate NFL starter,” but he’ll need to prove it in a game setting before teams start to take notice.

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