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3 Patriots-related thoughts as clock ticks down to official start of free agency 03.09.15 at 1:50 pm ET
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It appears that two of Tom Brady's old backups -- Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer -- are headed for a reunion in Houston. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

It appears that two of Tom Brady‘s old backups — Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer — are headed for a reunion in Houston. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The free agent running back market is expected to receive a bit of a jolt with the news that LeSean McCoy and the Bills have set on a five-year deal with $40 million with $26.5 guaranteed. (In addition, any deal free agent running back DeMarco Murray receives should also be in that same range.) Those will undoubtedly impact the Patriots and any plans they may have for Shane Vereen. While Vereen won’t be in that neighborhood, McCoy’s deal could be a sign that the market for third-down backs like Vereen could be better than it has been in recent years.

For the Patriots, the idea of facing Ndamukong Suh twice a year certainly isn’t appealing, especially when he’s paired up with two excellent edge rushers in the likes of Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon. Suh is one of the most complete young defensive tackles in the league, as he’s managed to build a resume not just as a run stopper but as an interior pass rushing presence as well. But at the same time, New England has always found a way to neutralize Suh — in two career regular-season games against the Patriots, he is 0-2 with one sack and seven tackles. Ultimately, in a division that was already full of really good young defensive fronts, this creates an even greater priority for New England when it comes to protecting quarterback Tom Brady. Several mock drafts have already marked the Patriots as needing an interior offensive lineman in the draft, and Miami’s pickup of Suh likely adds to that need.

Tom Brady‘s backups continue to find work, as it was reported Monday that Brian Hoyer appears to be on the move to Houston to join the man who supplanted him in the No. 2 role in New England back in 2011, Ryan Mallett. (Mallett reportedly agreed on Monday to a two-year, $7 million deal to stay in Houston.) Meanwhile, it’s expected that Hoyer’s move will be made official when free agency officially begins on Tuesday, although ESPN reported Monday that Hoyer will get an offer from the Jets. Including Matt Cassel (who signed with the Bills), the Patriots could face former QBs in as many as three games in 2015.

Read More: Brian Hoyer, DeMarco Murray, Ndamukong Suh, New England Patriots
Former Patriots OC Bill O’Brien: ‘I felt great watching the Patriots win’ Super Bowl XLIX 02.19.15 at 8:40 pm ET
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Houston head coach Bill O'Brien had high praise for Ryan Mallett on Thursday. (Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Houston head coach Bill O’Brien had high praise for Ryan Mallett on Thursday. (Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Although Bill O’Brien is the head coach of the Houston Texans, he made a name for himself as an assistant coach with the Patriots, his first NFL gig, so he had a rooting interest in Super Bowl XLIX.

In the end he couldn’t have been happier for the Patriots, which include some of his best friends in the league.

“It was an unbelievable game,” O’Brien told reporters at the NFL combine Thursday. “It was fun to watch. A lot of those guys are my close friends. A lot of those coaches, Josh McDaniels, Nick Caserio, the director of player personnel there, those two guys are two of my best friends. Obviously my relationship with Bill [Belichick], I felt great for those guys. Tom Brady, what more can you say about a guy that has persevered throughout his career and played at such a high level, goes and wins another Super Bowl. You can’€™t say enough about him.

“At the same time, you’€™re watching that game and you’€™re wishing and you’€™re hoping that some day the Houston Texans are in that game. That’€™s the nature of the business. I felt great watching the Patriots win that game for those guys that were in it.’€

O’Brien got his start in the NFL as an assistant with the Patriots in 2007. He then was the wide receivers coach in 2008 before being elevated to quarterback’s coach from 2009-10, and finally he was the offensive coordinator in 2011 before departing for the head coaching job at Penn State. O’Brien did make it back to the NFL taking the head coaching job with Houston.

It was during that time in New England where O’Brien coached quarterback Ryan Mallett who was traded to Houston during training camp, and started two games in Houston before suffering a season-ending pectoral injury. O’Brien was happy to get a chance to coach Mallett again.

Now with Mallett being a free agent, he wants him back in a Texans uniform.

“Whenever the date that we actually executed the trade with New England, that’€™s really when
we knew it was going to happen,” said O’Brien. “I’€™ve known Ryan since his rookie year. I coached him his rookie year. Really have a good connection with Ryan. George Godsey our quarterback coach was a real good connection, too. He enjoys playing in our system. We enjoy coaching him.

“Unfortunately, he only played two games due to injury. He played on good game and then one game where he was out there playing hurt. That’€™s not why we lost the game, but he tried to struggle through a chest injury there. He’€™s doing better. He’€™s rehabbing and we’€™d like to have him back in Houston.”

Read More: 2015 NFL combine, Bill O'Brien, Ryan Mallett,
Report: MRI reveals pectoral muscle tear, ending the season for Ryan Mallett 11.24.14 at 1:48 pm ET
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Former Patriots quarterback Ryan Mallett played with torn pectoral muscle and is out for the season.  (Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Former Patriots quarterback Ryan Mallett played with torn pectoral muscle and is out for the season. (Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Ryan Mallett‘s first chance as an NFL starting quarterback lasted just two weeks.

An MRI performed Monday on the Houston Texans quarterback revealed a torn right pectoral muscle that he played through in Sunday’s 22-13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. The news was first reported by John McClain of the Houston Chronicle and Ian Rapoport of NFL Media.

The former back-up to Tom Brady, who is a free agent after this season, suffered the injury in his first career start Nov. 6 against the Cleveland Browns. He practiced fully all week but was on the injury report with a chest injury throughout the week leading up to Sunday’s game against the Bengals.

In his first start Nov. 16 in Cleveland, Mallett completed 20 of 30 passes and threw two touchdowns and one interception. He had the 10th-best rating of any Texans starting quarterback since 2001. On Sunday against the Bengals, Mallett completed only 21 of 45 passes and looked off target all afternoon.

Mallett won the job from Ryan Fitzpatrick just before their bye week in early November as head coach Bill O’Brien turned to the quarterback he coached in New England in 2011 and 2012. The Patriots traded Mallett to the Texans on Aug. 31 after spending the first three years of his career in New England. Mallett threw only four passes in those three years.

The Texans acquired him for a conditional draft pick. The pick is a sixth-rounder if Mallett plays 40 percent of the team’s snaps this season and a seventh-rounder if he plays less.

Read More: Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, houston texans, New England Patriots
Tom Brady sends good wishes to former backups Ryan Mallett, Brian Hoyer via Facebook 11.13.14 at 1:48 pm ET
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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady gave a Throwback Thursday shoutout to two of his former backups — Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer — who are slated to meet this weekend when the Texans face the Browns.

Read More: Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, Tom Brady,
Tom Brady thinks Brian Hoyer against Ryan Mallett is ‘pretty cool’ 11.12.14 at 11:20 am ET
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Ryan Mallett will be running the show for the Texans this Sunday in Cleveland. (Getty Images)

Ryan Mallett will be running the show for the Texans this Sunday in Cleveland. (Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Tom Brady can’t wait to see his last two back-ups square off against each other.

Brian Hoyer will lead his 6-3 Cleveland Browns into battle against the 4-5 Houston Texans Sunday in Cleveland. The Texans starting quarterback will be Ryan Mallett, getting his first career NFL start.

Hoyer has his team all alone in first place in the AFC North while head coach Bill O’Brien decided to make a change, giving Mallett the chance after Ryan Fitzpatrick struggled heading into last week’s bye.

“It’s pretty cool,” Brady said. “It speaks to their work ethic and I think what they’ve been able to accomplish. They’ve both overcome quite a bit in their career, so it will be fun to see. We play at 8 o’clock, so I’m sure a lot of guys from our team will be paying attention.”

Of course, Brady will have some extra time to pay attention Sunday afternoon if he’s not napping. The Browns and Texans play at 1 p.m. in Cleveland while the Patriots don’t kick off in Indianapolis until 8:30 p.m.

Brady has already faced another former back-up this season head-to-head, when the Patriots beat Matt Cassel and the Vikings, 30-7, in Week 2.

Read More: Brian Hoyer, Cleveland Browns, houston texans, Matt Cassel
Bill Belichick on Tom Brady Backup Bowl: ‘Lot of respect’ for Ryan Mallett, Brian Hoyer at 6:30 am ET
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Former Patriots quarterback Ryan Mallett will get his first professional start this weekend against another ex-New England signal-caller in Brian Hoyer. (Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Former Patriots quarterback Ryan Mallett will get his first professional start this weekend against another ex-New England signal-caller in Brian Hoyer. (Bob Levey/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — This weekend marks the Tom Brady Backup Bowl, a contest that will feature Cleveland’s Brian Hoyer going up against Houston’s Ryan Mallett in a duel of former New England second-string quarterbacks.

Mallett will be making his first career start after taking over the No. 1 job with the Texans. Meanwhile, Hoyer has led the Browns to a 6-3 start, completing 58 percent of his passes for 2,212 yards and 10 touchdowns.

“Both those guys worked really hard here,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick. “They both did a good job for us. I have a lot of respect for both of them and a personal liking for both guys. We wish them well.”

On the topic of ex-New Englanders, Belichick was also quizzed earlier in the week about two former Patriots who have found a home with the Colts in safety Sergio Brown and cornerback Darius Butler.

‘€œWell, I’€™d say Darius has been in pretty much the same role that he was in last year as a nickel back [with Greg] Toler and [Vontae] Davis usually outside and Butler usually in the slot,” Belichick said of the 28-year-old Butler, who was a second-round pick of the Patriots in 2009 before joining Indy in 2012.

As for Brown, he was an undrafted free agent who spent the 2010 and 2011 seasons with New England before joining the Colts.

“Sergio’€™s had a big role in the kicking game,” Belichick said, “and then when [Laron] Landry was out the last four or five weeks then he had a lot of playing time at safety on defense and has been a little bit less involved in the kicking game.

“He’€™s been in those two roles. It looks like they’€™re kind of independent of each other, so the more involved he is on defense, the less in the kicking game; the less on defense, the more in the kicking game. He’€™s done both.’€

Read More: Bill Belichick, Brian Hoyer, Darius Butler, Ryan Mallett
Brady Backup Bowl? Ryan Mallett set to face Brian Hoyer next weekend 11.05.14 at 3:22 pm ET
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If everyone stays healthy, it’ll be a reunion of former Tom Brady backups next weekend, as Ryan Mallett — who was named the new starter for the Texans on Wednesday — will lead Houston against the Browns, who are quarterbacked by Brian Hoyer.

The 26-year-old Mallett, who spent three years with the Patriots, takes over for a struggling Ryan Fitzpatrick. Texans head coach Bill O’Brien praised Mallett on Wednesday, saying he’s improved across the board since he arrived in Houston in a trade with the Patriots in September.

“Watching Ryan in practice every day, I believe it’s gotten better and better,” O’Brien told Houston reporters on Wednesday. “His huddle command, his knowledge of the offense, he’s been in this system for four years. … I think he’s made a lot of progress whereas he’s never played in a game or hasn’t had many reps in a game. We’re going to give him his shot to play.”

“It sure didn’t seem like it, I’ll tell you that,” the 26-year-old Mallett said when asked if he ever thought he’d get this chance. “I’ll tell you that. It’s been four years. It didn’t seem like it … I was starting to question if I’ll ever get a shot. Well now I’ve got a shot. We’ll see what I do with it.”

Hoyer has been at the controls of a Cleveland team that has a 5-3 mark at the midway point of the season. The 29-year-old, who was cut loose prior to the start of the 2011 season — ostensibly for Mallett, who took over as the No. 2 quarterback in New England — has completed 58 percent of his passes this year, to go along with 2,014 passing yards and 10 touchdowns.

Read More: Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, Tom Brady,
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