Big week for backup quarterbacks

August, 20, 2012
8/20/12
2:00
PM ET
Some might say Bill Belichick doesn't reveal much in interviews. That might be true in some cases, but when it came to how he planned to approach this stretch of three preseason games in 10 days -- starting tonight vs. the Eagles -- he pretty much opened up his playbook.
"I think the big thing is to go out there and play, and give the players a chance to recover so they can go and play again, and then give them a chance to recover so they can go play again. Playing that many games, in that short a period of time, is obviously not the ideal way to do it," Belichick said on sports radio WEEI last week.

"There is nothing more important than the health of our team, and you want to recognize that and do everything we can to keep as many guys practicing and healthy as we possibly can. I’d say that will probably be the No. 1 priority relative to those games, and then evaluate the guys that are playing and see how they do."

With this in mind, the expectation from here is that quarterback Tom Brady and some of the top players on offense will be in a one-or-the-other type of situation this week.

They either play a lot tonight and then sparingly in Tampa on Friday. Or they won't play much tonight and then will turn it on for joint practices Wednesday and Thursday in Tampa, as well as Friday's game.

The best guess from here is that Brady and the big guns will be saved for Tampa, but regardless of the choice, the trickle-down effect is that this will be a big week for backup quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett.

They are going to get their opportunity in one of these games, and it will be their last chance to show what they can do against top-level competition because the final preseason game at the Giants is likely to feature most of New York's backups as they open the regular-season the following Wednesday.

As Peter King noted in his widely read "Monday Morning Quarterback" piece today, "Maybe the most interesting thing out of New England ... is that Ryan Mallett has had two training camps to beat out Brian Hoyer for the backup quarterback job, and when the Patriots start the season, Hoyer's very likely to be No. 2. If Mallett were a great player, I couldn't see this happening."

So in thinking about who has the most at stake over the next few days, the backup quarterback spot is near the top of the list.

If Mallett is going to make his move, the time is now.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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