Preseason could prove to be big audition for Hoyer

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Preseason could prove to be big audition for Hoyer

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."

NFL's Top 10 list revealed Monday night: Where does Tom Brady wind up?

NFL's Top 10 list revealed Monday night: Where does Tom Brady wind up?

NFL players vote every year on which players should make up the list of the best their game has to offer, but it's an imperfect system. And that's probably putting it lightly. 

The NFL Network will reveal the final 10 players on its annual Top 100 list Monday night at 8 p.m. It will be an order that has been chosen by some players, not all. Of those who took part, some hastily made their way through a handful of names at the end of last season handing over their choices. 

Yet it's the list the league ends up with, for better or for worse, prompting responses like JJ Watt's when he found out he was No. 35 this year after playing in three games last season. 

On NFL.com, the Top 100 list is described as the answer to the question, "Who are the top 100 players in the NFL today?" If that's the criteria -- and not simply performance in 2016 -- then Watt's complaint actually doesn't hold much water. If he's healthy, no one would argue that he's one of the best 35 players "in the NFL today."

This year, several Patriots players from 2016 made the cut: Rob Gronkowski (No. 23), LeGarrette Blount (No. 80), Julian Edelman (No. 71), Dont'a Hightower (No. 94) and Malcolm Butler (No. 99). 

Tom Brady will be the last of Bill Belichick's players to be named. He's lumped into a Top 10 that will include Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Ezekiel Elliott, Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham, Julio Jones, Von Miller and Khalil Mack.

Here's what we think the list should look like when the curtain falls on the finale of this flawed endeavor:

10. Elliott
9. Beckham
8. Bell
7. Brown
6. Ryan
5. Jones
4. Miller
3. Mack
2. Rodgers
1. Brady

David Harris gets Jerod Mayo's old No. 51 with Patriots

David Harris gets Jerod Mayo's old No. 51 with Patriots

If you're hoping to help lead the Patriots defense from the middle of the field, No. 51 wouldn't be a bad jersey to wear in that pursuit.

Those are the digits that were worn by longtime Patriots captain (and Quick Slants co-host) Jerod Mayo during his run with the team from 2008-15. Taking the torch from linebackers like Tedy Bruschi, Junior Seau and Mike Vrabel, Mayo was the defensive signal-caller and quarterback of the Patriots defense for the better part of a decade, eventually handing the reins to his understudy Dont'a Hightower. 

With Harris now in the mix, the defense will still be led by Hightower, who was a captain for the first time in 2016. But Harris figures to serve as a leader in his own right for the Patriots. The 33-year-old 'backer has been one of the game's most durable players at his position while with the Jets, and over time he established himself as a savvy communicator at the second level. 

Comparing Harris to Mayo comes easily because of their reputations as coach-on-the-field types. Back in 2014 when Darrelle Revis called New England home, he explained that what Mayo did for the Patriots defense reminded him of what Harris did in New York.

Now Harris has Mayo's old number, and in training camp he'll make a play for some of the duties Mayo held later in his career. How Harris will handle his new role, and how he may help his teammates take their games to new heights, is something we touched upon in this space earlier today

Harris wore No. 52 during his 10 years with the Jets. That number has belonged to Patriots linebacker Elandon Roberts since he came into the league last season as a rookie, and it looks like Roberts will hold onto it for the foreseeable future.

No. 51 has bounced around to a couple of different Patriots since Mayo's retirement. Last year it was claimed by Barkevious Mingo, who has since moved on to Indianapolis as a free agent. Through this year's spring workouts No. 51 was worn by undrafted rookie linebacker Brooks Ellis, who now shares No. 47 with fullback Glenn Gronkowski.