FOXBORO -- Without a doubt, Ryan Mallett worked his tail off to get in shape this offseason. The results are obvious enough.
"I've lost a little fat," he said Friday. "I feel stronger, I feel quicker."
But more important than cutting fried food out of his diet was his dedication to the offense. Mallett doesn't shy away from the fact that he felt behind in his rookie season. He's just relieved he's made progress.
I was lost sometimes last year because I wasnt here from Day 1 of the camp, he admitted.
I think having a spring under my belt and going back to day one of how we do things is the stuff that I missed last year from Day 1. So I was trying to play catch-up last year and its hard to play catch-up in this offense.
There was no question to Mallett's standing last season: Backup to the quarterback's backup. He's hoping this year -- with no NFL lockout in his way -- to at least make a pass at that No. 2 spot.
Patriots director of personnel Nick Caserio hasn't discounted the possibility.
"I think its been a pretty good competition," Caserio said during his morning press conference. "I know Bill Belichick alluded to this the other day, I think, the competition between Brian Hoyer and Ryan has been pretty good.
"Theyve both had their share of good plays; theyve both had their share of bad plays. I think the most important thing is to try to eliminate the number of bad plays or mental mistakes or whatever it may be."
Unfortunately for Mallett, there have been several.
Despite his optimism ("I feel like I know what's going on, making smarter reads, protecting the ball.) he's been inconsistent at best. It seems for every pretty play there is a corresponding interception, ball in the dirt, or show of indecision. More than once during camp, the coaches have him in drills that don't have much to do with passing.
He's young, yet.
And a young quarterback being around a player like Tom Brady can't hurt. The way Caserio sees it, even if the veteran doesn't have a lot of personal time to devote to Mallett's development, communication is good enough in the meeting rooms that some wisdom can be gleaned.
Mallett will take whatever he can get.
I feel like you can always take the knowledge that theyve learned over the years and apply it to your game. You learn, you work on all the little things, then overall all the big things when it comes to the team drills," he said.
Its a process, but I feel a lot more comfortable.