FOXBORO -- It's an important time for Brian Hoyer.
One, it's the preseason -- which means he'll, you know, actually play. Two, he's going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this year. His performance over the next four preseason games could actually go a long way in determining what his future is in the NFL.
Hoyer can play, but going into his fourth season he hasn't been given the chance to prove it outside of the preseason or garbage time in the regular season. For his career, he's just 27-for-43 for 286 yards and a touchdown. Those numbers alone aren't going to blow anybody away, but perhaps three years under Tom Brady and Bill Belichick along with a strong fourth preseason is enough for a team to take a chance.
"I'm taking the same approach I have the last three years," Hoyer said of preseason play. "For me I know this is a guaranteed opportunity, and I'm gonna get the chance to play. I'm just going to take what I've done from the media room to the practice field and now to the game when the live bullets are flying and go out there and try to do everything right. Obviously you want to prepare for a perfect game, but it doesn't always end up that way so just go out there and try to do the best I can and get the team going when I'm in there and go from there."
The Patriots put a second-round tender on the Hoyer, who was a restricted free agent over the offseason, but no teams bit. That isn't to say they wouldn't bite for a third or fourth-round pick later on in the year, especially in a time of need.
New England would have to listen, already having another highly-touted backup in Ryan Mallett potentially taking over for Brady in eight years (kidding, kind of). The Pats went with just Brady and Hoyer in 2008 and 2009, and if Belichick has the same trust in Mallett, he'd go with just two again. They value roster spots around these parts, and using two on two quarterbacks who combined to throw one pass last year (Hoyer to Rob Gronkowski in Week 17) isn't ideal, but a necessary evil at the moment.
Without playing all season, it's tough to judge progression. Hoyer does it based on practice.
"Obviously they're filming practice every day so you can watch that and learn from that," he said. "There's always room to improve and with a guy like Tom Brady and now Josh McDaniels coming in and having him give his input there's been a lot of things that I've tried to improve on. And you just try to go out there every day in practice and kind of attack those things and then go and watch film afterwards and see how you did."
But opposing teams don't have practice footage (hold the Spygate jokes, please). They can only watch Hoyer's progression from one preseason to the next and at rare points during the regular season. The preseason opener Thursday night against the Saints will be the next big audition for him, and having seen them in practice over the last two days has sharpened his skills.
"I think it makes you stick to your rules," Hoyer said of throwing against the Saints. "After you see the same thing over and over and over you kind of know where to go right away. So now when a new scheme comes in it kind of really tests what you know and how well you know the system. So you have to stick to your rules and take what the defense gives you."