AFC East Quarterback Controversies Could Work In Favor Of The New England Patriots

By Chris Ransom

The New England Patriots might be in the safest position at quarterback.  The Buffalo Bills overpaid Ryan Fitzpatrick by signing him to a six-year deal, and also signed Vince Young as a backup.  The New York Jets quarterback battle with Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow is already commanding way too much hype.  The Miami Dolphins quarterback battle will be decided on HBO’s hit series “Hard Knocks.”

The Bills are likely to start Fitzpatrick this season.  Barring some relapse where the Bills begin the season losing five straight games, Fitzpatrick will likely remain the Bills’ starting quarterback.

The Dolphins have last year’s mid-season starter Matt Moore, free agent pick-up David Garrard, and rookie first-round selection Ryan Tannehill all competing for the starting job.  Moore did a great job filling in for former Dolphin Chad Henne.  The Dolphins were off to an 0-3 start before Henne got injured in the first quarter against the San Diego Chargers last season.

The Dolphins got a bye week to prepare for the Jets following a 26-16 defeat to the Chargers.  After losing 24 -6 to the Jets, Moore played competitive during the rest of the season.  The Dolphins only lost one of their final 11 games by double digits after an 0-5 start.  Thanks to Moore, the Dolphins finished the season 6-3 after starting 0-7.

Garrard was a quality starter during his days as the starter for the Jacksonville Jaguars.  He got cut by the Jaguars near the end of the preseason in 2011.  Tannehill may be raw, but he may end up being the Dolphins’ starting quarterback when the season begins in September.  Tannehill has a good understanding of the Dolphins’ offensive playbook.  Most of the plays the Dolphins run, were plays that Tannehill operated at Texas A&M.

The Jets’ quarterback competition between Sanchez and Tebow has generated too much hype.  Regardless of who wins the starting job, there will be immense pressure on either starter not to screw up.  It’s almost like the backup has an advantage of waiting to play for the Jets.

With the Patriots they have the AFC’s best quarterback with signal-caller Tom Brady.  You know that Brady will start regardless of what happens this season.  Backup Brian Hoyer enters his contract year, and is on the brink of becoming this years version of Kevin Kolb or Matt Flynn.  Hoyer could be the backup that turns starter.

Hoyer is in the exact same situation that former Patriots’ backup Matt Cassel was in after the Patriots lost Super Bowl 42.  Will Hoyer get the same opportunity that Cassel got?  Will he cease that opportunity?  It will mainly come down to how many games Brady plays in 2012.  Hoyer will not even get an opportunity if Brady starts all 16 games.

Ryan Mallett was one of my least favorite quarterback prospects when looking back on the 2011 NFL Draft.  Mallett played in a spread offense at Arkansas, had some character concerns, there was a lack of accuracy on his passes, and part of me questioned his dedication to play in the NFL.

Mallett did not receive any playing time as a rookie and barely got any reps as a 3rd string quarterback. Bill O’ Brien was an offensive coordinator and quarterback coach that worked with the Patriots’ quarterbacks in 2011-2012.  Josh McDaniels will serve as the offensive coordinator and quarterback coach in 2012 moving forward with O’ Brien leaving the Patriots to become Penn State’s new head coach.

Mallett may have to learn new plays under McDaniels.  Mallett barely received any reps last season, plus he will have to show more progress in year 2 for the Patriots if he expects to leave current Patriots coaches with the impression that he is Brady’s true successor.

The main reason why the Patriots have an edge over the rest of the AFC East at quarterback, is because the Patriots’ quarterbacks know their roles.  If something happens, then they have the personnel to adjust and pass the torch down to one of the other quarterbacks.  If one of the other backups messes up, they are held accountable.

The Patriots understand this better than any team in the NFL, which is why they should remain AFC East Champions.  Repeating as AFC Champions will be the real war of attrition in January when the NFL Playoffs begin.

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