We begin our series of Patriots' post-mini-camp, pre-training camp position-by-position assessments: Current situation, spots available, who’s vying for those spots. Today, quarterback:
Tom Brady was the league MVP for the third time, and his play at 40 years old was good enough that the Patriots took a pass on grabbing his successor in the first couple of rounds of this year's draft. Despite taking a beating early in the season, and despite battling through a variety of injuries throughout 2017, Brady led the league in passing yardage and was third when it came to quarterback rating. He was fifth in completion percentage and fifth in yards per attempt. He's said before he'll retire when he sucks. He's a long way off. Backing him up are Brian Hoyer and seventh-round pick Danny Etling, who hails from LSU.
One, really. Brady is the starter. After that...? The Patriots will obviously carry a backup. And they could carry two, although in recent seasons they've opted to minimize the clutter at this position. In 2016, the Patriots carried Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett. It was the first time they'd carried three quarterbacks since 2011, when Hoyer and rookie Ryan Mallett sat behind Brady. They could roll with three again. But seeing as how the league-wide interest in Etling before the draft wasn't exactly overwhelming, perhaps the Patriots will be able to stash him on the practice squad following training camp. Hoyer is the clear favorite to serve as Brady's backup.
WHO'S DOING WHAT
So is there any chance Etling actually supplants Hoyer as the No. 2? With a good arm and a turnover allergy (two picks in 13 games as a senior for the Tigers), Etling has some interesting qualities to work with. Plus his intangibles seem to be excellent. He's a worker. (He's an Eagle Scout. Seriously.) And he's gone out of his way to get in some extra reps after practice - usually with fellow rookie Braxton Berrios -- in order to squeeze as much as possible from his time on the field. Etling dealt with four different offenses in college (he transferred from Purdue to LSU in 2015), and he's thought to have a strong football IQ. Still, it's going to be Hoyer's job in all likelihood. The 32-year-old's experience in the system and NFL starting experience (37 career starts) make him a valuable asset. Hoyer's also shown a willingness to take a leadership role in practices Brady hasn't participated in. He's been the No. 1 in those sessions and acted like it -- correcting teammates when they run an incorrect route, celebrating with them when they execute. That may help him if he's thrown into an emergency situation as Patriots starter at some point in 2018.