By Danny Picard
FOXBORO -- Tom Brady would have you believe he'll be playing on Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. But how long he'll be in there is another question.
If Brady doesn't play the whole game, backup quarterback Brian Hoyer could see his most playing time of the season.
Hoyer has appeared in four games in this, his second year in the NFL. He's yet to complete a pass in 2010, after finishing his rookie season 19-of-27 for 142 yards in five games.
Still, Patriots coach Bill Belichick has seen improvements from his backup QB, even if he believes there's some things he has to work on.
"I think he took last year, and he built on that," said Belichick. "He certainly started at a much higher level this year than he did last year. That's obvious. I think he's improved a great deal this year, not as much as he did last year because his starting point was so much higher. Those improvements are incremental.
"I think he does a good job in his role," added Belichick. "He does what he needs to do at his position. We all know, and everybody knows, he's one play away from playing."
Just ask former Patriots backup Matt Cassel, who's now leading his Kansas City Chiefs into the playoffs. Cassel came in for Brady in 2008 when Brady went down in Week 1 with a knee injury.
Brady missed the entire season,and Cassel got his opportunity, something Brady says is all that Hoyer needs to prove himself in the NFL.
As for when that consistent opportunity comes is another unanswered question. Hoyer may see time on Sunday against the Dolphins, but that won't be enough to convince another NFL team that he's a No. 1 quarterback in the league.
Brady will start on Sunday, in a game that is essentially meaningless with regards to the standings. In the devastating case that something were to happen to Brady between now and the end of playoffs, the Pats are confident that Hoyer would be ready for the call.
"Brian is a great player," said Brady. "Even though he's a Michigan State kid" -- a tough admission for Michigan grad Brady -- "he's really come a long way. For any quarterback, that first to second year is a really big jump. He's smart, has all the physical skills. All he needs is an opportunity. You never know when you'll get that opportunity because at quarterback, it's only one play away. The whole team has a lot of confidence in Brian."
Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on his streaming radio show I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Friday from 9-10 a.m. on CSNNE.com.