Ryan Mallett shows ‘command’ but looks for more consistency as Tom Brady’s backup
|08.30.13 at 1:15 am ET|
Often in the fourth and final preseason game, players show some things perhaps not showcased at any other point in the preseason, or their careers, since for some it is their last game action for quite some time.
This wasn’t the case for Patriots quarterback Ryan Mallett in Thursday’s preseason finale against the Giants. He once again showed flashes of being capable of starting NFL games, while at times not being able to complete a basic pass.
Mallett, entering his third season as a professional, played the entire first half, giving Tom Brady some extra rest before Week 1 against Buffalo. His overall numbers were pretty good, but within those numbers were the inconsistencies he’s displayed since being drafted out of Arkansas in the third round in 2011.
He finished the game 10-for-16 for 117 yards while throwing a touchdown and an interception, departing the game with the Patriots leading 14-10 at the half. The touchdown was his most impressive play of the night, a 40-yard pass to rookie Josh Boyce on which Mallett led the speedy Boyce perfectly into the end zone, showcasing one of the strongest arms in the league.
“Mallett threw a great ball so I just tried to go out there and make a play,” Boyce said. “He threw it pretty deep.”
Earlier in the game, a positive turned into a negative for Mallett as on the third drive of the night he completed 4-of-5 passes to lead the Patriots to the 4-yard line. Once down by the goal line, rookie wideout Aaron Dobson found himself free in the back of the end zone where Mallett needed to loft the ball over the defender, but the QB underthrew the pass and Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara reeled in the jump ball for what looked like an interception.
Luckily for Mallett and the Patriots, the play was reviewed and overturned as Amukamara’s elbow came down out of bounds. The Patriots scored on the next play, a 1-yard run by George Winn, but at this point in the season the prior play doesn’t go unnoticed.
The interception, coming with 3:08 left in the half, also was intended for Dobson, on a slant route over the middle of the field. The pass hit the rookie’s hands but he couldn’t corral it, and it was intercepted by the Giants Trumaine McBride. It wasn’t a bad throw, but it wasn’t a good one, either, and those are the mistakes proven NFL players rarely make.
Mallett’s preseason was a lot better than last year’s, when he completed 33-of-67 passes for 300 yards, three touchdowns and one interception, compared to this year where he completed 42-of-76 passes for 447 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. The better performance may be attributed to more repetition and experience, which could be even greater down the road.
“I felt good,” Mallett said when asked about his preseason performance. “I felt in command of the offense. I made a few plays. Missed a few that I should have made, but that just comes with playing more.”
Through his play this preseason and his prior two years with the team, the 25-year-old likely has earned the role of Brady’s backup, but it is the consistency in his play that one day could be the difference between him being a starting quarterback and a backup in the NFL.
Watching Mallett make throws showcasing his arm like the touchdown pass to Boyce show the talent the quarterback has and make it seem worth going through the development. Mallett may be in the best place for him, learning from one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game while fine-tuning his skills and working on being more consistent with his reads and passes, then seeing what comes in the next year or two with his contract expiring at the end of next year.
In the short term, despite the inconsistencies, Mallett has proven he can step in and take over for Brady if something were to happen to the franchise quarterback, which really is all you can ask for from a third-round pick from two years ago.
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