It can be said that Ryan Mallett’s name fits him, for the right and wrong reason. Watch the velocity he throws the ball with and you’d think, “Man! He throws the ball so hard it’s like he’s swinging a mallet!”
Then the ball sails incomplete, nowhere near a receiver and you think the contents of Mallett’s head are made of the same material as the tool.
It’s year two of Mallett’s career and it’s looking very much like year one. You would think he should be displaying significant progress as a passer. By all reports, however, so far he’s been disappointing in training camp.
The narrative didn’t change in the first preseason game, as Mallett continued to scuffle along with inconsistent play. With a full offseason to learn the pro game and evolve as a quarterback, it looks like Mallett hasn’t progressed.
But the reality is Brady is 35. He doesn’t have many years left in him, and it would be a comforting thought if the Patriots already had a quarterback being groomed to follow in Brady’s footsteps.
Many thought Mallett would be that quarterback when New England selected him with a 2011 third-round pick. He has the classic pocket passer build at 6'6" with a sturdy 230 pounds on his frame.
Most impressive was Mallett’s rocket arm. He has the arm strength to deliver the ball anywhere on the field with velocity. Mallett has the tools to become a franchise quarterback and was rated by many scouts as a first-round pick on talent alone.
The red flag on Mallett was his maturity. At Arkansas it was rumored that Mallett partied a lot. Even more damaging were rumors of drug use. Because of these strikes against his character, Mallett fell to the 74th pick and into the Patriots’ arms.
New England is supposed to be the ideal situation for Mallett. He’s with a stable, successful organization and can learn from a future Hall of Fame quarterback and head coach. If Mallett works hard and makes strides, he is the heir apparent to Brady’s franchise. How sweet is that?
Mallett’s debut against Jacksonville last preseason couldn’t have gone better. He was 12/19 for 164 yards and a touchdown while leading the offense on four touchdown drives. What made the performance more satisfying was that Mallett out-played Jaguars first-round pick Blaine Gabbert.
Then the flaws came to light. In the remaining three games Mallett was 24/44 for 193 yards and an interception.
The latter Mallett was under center in the 2012 preseason opener against New Orleans. The ball was rarely delivered on time, passes lacked touch and Mallett’s accuracy continued to be erratic. There wasn’t any sign of improvement as he was 8/19 for 89 yards and an interception.
Head coach Bill Belichick disagrees. “I think Ryan’s improved significantly from last year,” Belichick said in Thursday's The Boston Globe. “I try not to get into these expectations, because guys progress at different rates, but I think what you’re looking for is improvement.”
This is supposed to be Mallett’s opportunity to lock up the back-up role because Brian Hoyer was a free agent in 2012. Instead Hoyer was re-signed and looks like the better option after Brady.
The preseason is only one game old and there’s time for Mallett to bounce back. He’s been disappointing during training camp, but all Mallett needs is one solid game to prove he’s not hard-headed.
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