Tough Decision Coming Up For Patriots Between Mallett, Hoyer

Ian Logue
August 30, 2012 at 05:15am ET

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Brian Hoyer may not have done enough to remain the back-up in New England. (US Presswire)

One of the more interesting battles that took place this preseason was the battle for the number two spot behind quarterback Tom Brady, and with preseason finally coming to an end there's one thing we've learned.

Let's just hope Brady makes it through the season unscathed.

Head coach Bill Belichick finds himself in quite a difficult situation because this team is in need of depth at positions where it can't afford to make a mistake - ie: offensive lineman, receivers, and in the defensive backfield - all key positions where they were left shorthanded throughout much of last season.

That being said, it's going to be interesting to see if he decides to put his faith in Ryan Mallett and allow Brian Hoyer to get exactly what he asked for this offseason, and that's an opportunity to take his services elsewhere.

For Hoyer it was a preseason full of opportunity to try and distinguish himself from Mallett and potentially prove that his past several years of development were enough to get him ready for a starting role with another football team.  Instead it's Mallett who showed flashes of brilliance over the course of the last month, and he's done enough to prove that if nothing else, he's close enough to the level of Hoyer where he could have earned the #2 spot on the depth chart.

At least that's how it sounded after Wednesday night's game, as Belichick didn't seem to favor either one and said the race was "tight" between the two.

“That’s been competitive as well," said Belichick when asked about the play of his two back-up quarterbacks.  "Those guys have gotten pretty much equal opportunities all the way through from the spring, into the practices in preseason, in the preseason games other than the Tampa game, you know we only played one quarterback after Tom [Brady] in that game, but otherwise it’s been about as equal as we could have it.  It’s very competitive, it’s tight, and we’ll see…you know, try and make the best decision we can for the team on that one.”

Statistically the two finished nearly even, with Hoyer finishing 9-of-15 for 96 yards, while Mallett finished 8-of-15 for 40 yards.  However, Hoyer was sacked three times and threw an ill-advised interception in the closing seconds of the game that appeared to draw expletives from offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, as well as suffering his second sack and fumble of the preseason.

Mallett meanwhile wasn't terrific, but surprisingly he was the more steady of the two on the field and looked more like he was playing with nothing to lose rather than worrying about making mistakes. That can't be said for Hoyer, who definitely looked tentative and not the confident guy that fans remember last preseason.

Mallett spoke to WBZ after the game and sounded as though he's already planning on being ready should the unthinkable happen and Brady gets injured.

“It was a good experience," said Mallett of all the playing time he got this preseason. "Especially after my first preseason to my second preseason and gaining some more experience and feeling more comfortable. But now it’s go prepare like I’m the starter every day just in case my number’s called.”

Hoyer's biggest issue was the fact that if he's going to be "just as good" and the coaching staff is already thinking long-term about Mallett anyway, they may decide to make the tough decision that Belichick mentioned in his press conference.

We'll find out in the coming days, but regardless of who earns that spot on the depth chart fans have to be a little nervous after what we've seen. So let's just hope it's business as usual for Brady this season.

In the meantime below are two charts showing how both quarterbacks performed this season:

Brian Hoyer:

Above are Brian Hoyer's preseason numbers based on the NFL's official stats
*These numbers don't include passes that didn't include an official direction designation, spiked passes, etc.

Ryan Mallett:

Above are Ryan Mallett's preseason numbers based on the NFL's official stats
*These numbers don't include passes that didn't include an official direction designation, spiked passes, etc. This includes one touchdown which wasn't given a designation, however, watching it live would have been the short middle of the endzone.