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Ryan Mallett vs. the first-round quarterbacks… Round 1

08.12.11 at 12:57 am ET
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FOXBORO — When Ryan Mallett handed the ball off to Stevan Ridley in the third quarter of the Patriots’ 47-12 win over the Jaguars and watched the former LSU running back scamper into the end zone for his second touchdown of the night, the Arkansas product likely knew he wasn’t going to be the rookie who stole the show on Thursday. When Ridley scored his third touchdown, a 16-yard reception from Mallett, that likelihood became a certainty.

Yet despite the fact that Mallett was outshone by another first-year player Thursday night, the third-round pick turned in a solid outing for his first taste of NFL action. After Brian Hoyer played the entire first half (Tom Brady did not play), Mallett came in against Jacksonville reserves and completed 12 of 19 passes for 164 yards and the aforementioned touchdown to Ridley.

“It felt good just to get out there and play football with the guys,” Mallett said. “We’ve been working hard in camp, and to get out there and actually see a product that’s not just practice and see a different color was a lot of fun.”

Stock quotes aside, Mallett’s debut, even if it’s only the preseason and came against such players as Kevin Rutland and William Middleton, was something football fans everywhere may have been inclined to turn an eye to. He’s got a cannon of an arm — perhaps the strongest in a draft class that featured four first-round signal-callers — and only off-field issues led to his stock’s plummet.

As a result, it was interesting that his first preseason game would come against the Jaguars and Blaine Gabbert. Think back to the scouting combine in February. Gabbert, a projected first-round pick out of Missouri, did not participate in passing drills, as is the case with many QBs with first-round grades (and especially those represented by agent Tom Condon). Mallett, who had at points carried a late first-round grade, had to throw. He did, and was far and away the most impressive quarterback at the combine.

Fast-forwarding six months, it was Gabbert who was taking the field as the 10th overall pick, leading the Jaguars’ offense with David Garrard out with a back injury. And it was Mallett who came in after halftime as the 10th pick of the third round.

Mallett unquestionably bombed his combine meeting with reporters. (This was at the height of rumors that the quarterback had used drugs, and he displayed the exact opposite of the engaging attitude players use when meeting the media. Asked how he responded to the questions about his decision-making on the field, he cracked, ‘€œSeven thousand-plus yards and 60 touchdowns in two seasons. That’€™s how I respond to that.’€) Even so, talent alone could not suggest the 64-pick gap between the two players. The Patriots took the talented player who had fallen due to non-football issues with the hope that it could pay off.

Nineteen preseason passes into Mallett’s career, draftniks can note that Mallett outperformed Gabbert (9-16, 85 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT) in their first meeting. Sure, Mallett was facing reserves, but so, too, was Gabbert, despite the fact that he played the first half (the Patriots sat most of their starters).

Regardless of who Mallett faced or how he compared to others, he received high praise after the Pats‘ win from the man who figures to sit above him on the Pats’ depth chart.

“He played great,” Hoyer said of Mallett’s performance. “It’s obvious that he’s got a great arm, and he had good poise out there and led those guys. I thought he did a good job.”

Mallett is unlikely to see regular season game situations in his rookie year. Even so, it seems likely that Thursday will not be the last time that his performance will be measured against those quarterbacks taken ahead of him.

Read More: 2011 training camp, Blaine Gabbert, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett
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