Pivotal preseason looms for Ryan Mallett

Pivotal preseason looms for Ryan Mallett
August 6, 2014, 11:45 am
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RICHMOND, Virginia – NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock created a stir this week when he opined that Ryan Mallett “popped” during Monday’s joint practice.
 
The highly-respected Mayock added that he was “blown away” and saw a “legitimate NFL starting quarterback.”
 
The unanimous opinion among media not named Mike Mayock was a variation of, “That’s absolutely not what I saw.”
 
Now, either I don’t know what I’m looking at or Mayock was observing Mallett when I wasn’t. Because it seemed a very standard Mallett performance. Some good throws completed. Some late throws broken up. Some bad throws picked off.  
 
Mallett, not surprisingly agrees with Mayock.
 
“I’ve always felt that way about myself because I’m confident in myself,” he said. “I appreciate his nice words but I’ve always felt that way.”
 
In the end, whether Mayock’s opinion on Monday’s practice was accurate or not is irrelevant. Thursday night at FedEx Field, Mallett gets to show his 2014 performance level for the first time. It’s an important preseason for him because, after three full seasons backing up Tom Brady, Mallett’s entering the final year of his contract and a new backup – Jimmy Garoppolo – is being groomed.
 
Mallett’s days in New England are very likely numbered and if he’s going to get a crack at competing for a starting job, it will come in the next seven months when he’s either traded by the Patriots, released at the end of camp or becomes a free agent next March.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity to play a lot,” he said. “I haven’t gotten too many chances here in the regular season obviously because I have a pretty good guy in front of me.”
 
That would be Tom Brady. And maybe that’s part of the reason Mallett sometimes looks just, “Ehhh…” He’s taking reps after a guy who’s steady as a metronome.
 
Mallett insists he’s locked in on now and not his future.
 
“I live day-to-day, man,” he said. “I’m happy where I’m at right now. I’m having a blast, I’m on a great team, I’ve got a great organization around me, my teammates are awesome. (The future) doesn’t cross my mind.”
 
It must take some mental discipline for Mallett to not lament the past that’s put him here. In the 2011 draft, Cam Newton, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder, Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick were all taken ahead of Mallett whose value nosedived in part because of rumored drug use.
 
Since being in New England, Mallett’s been a model employee. There hasn’t been a whisper of off-field issues, he’s transformed his wiry body, gone is the guarded and aloof kid who came here.
 
If he can perform on the field, he’d be a good hire. But while guys like Gabbert and Ponder have already been kicked to the curb and Kaepernick and Dalton are into massive second contracts, Mallett’s treading water
 
“You can’t control what you can’t control,” he said. “It’s uncontrollable so deal with it. There’s no reason to question. I was dealt the hand I was dealt so I’m playing cards now.”
 
He gets very zen now and then.
 
This has probably been Mallett’s most efficient camp overall, an observation he backed up saying, “I feel really good right now. I’m seeing stuff pretty well. It happens over time. I’m happy it’s finally doing that.”
 
Thursday night – and the rest of this preseason – Mallett will go out and make his case play after play. It’s not overstating to say his work will help decide his professional future.