Tuesday Practice Wrap: Mallett getting nod?

Tuesday Practice Wrap: Mallett getting nod?
August 16, 2011, 8:52 pm
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By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
FOXBORO - Reading the tea leaves a little bit from Tuesday's practice, Ryan Mallett could be seeing quite a bit of time against Tampa. The rookie quarterback took nearly all the second-team reps during the Patriots morning workout. Brian Hoyer ran the scout team. Mallett, who had a very nice debut last week against the Jaguars (12 of 19 for 164 yards and a touchdown), may be making a play for something more than the third string role. The Patriots are clearly high on the rookie's promise. His size, explosive arm and early command have been eye-opening. If Mallett is creating a bigger role for himself and does challenge for the backup spot behind Tom Brady, it will be thanks to his performance rather than any shortcoming from current backup Brian Hoyer. The difference between the two is a matter of arm strength. Mallett's is rare. Hoyer's is average. If Mallett can develop similar accuracy and grow quicker with his reads, he'll be hard for Hoyer to hold off. But any leapfrogging by Mallett figures to be some time away still. This is pure conjecture but -- based on history -- Brady will likely get the start on Thursday night and play into the second quarter at least before giving way to relief. Hoyer didn't have the greatest practice. He was picked in rapid succession by safety Patrick Chung and corner Leigh Bodden. Monday's stir caused by Sergio Brown taking first-team reps next to Chung at the safety spot should be tempered some. Brandon Meriweather was back taking most of the first reps along with Chung. The recent visits from assorted free agent safeties and a sketchy camp from Meriweather has sparked speculation he's not long for New England. But, truth be told, the Patriots are currently light at the safety spot. James Sanders has been injured and hasn't practiced much at all. Meanwhile, the team still hasn't replaced Jarrad Page who left as a free agent. They need more from Meriweather, no question. But safety pairings are often mixed on this defense so the apparent elevation of Brown should be taken witha grain of salt. In the Patriots' four-man front, Andre Carter is at RDE, Vince Wilfork and Kyle Love are the tackles and Mark Anderson was the LDE. The ends are ever-changing but -- for now at least -- Wilfork and Love seem to be the tackles on first and second-down. Chad Ochocinco beat Brown like a drum on a deep post pattern. Wideout Darnell Jenkins, who appeared a little shaken up during Monday's practice, returned for the shorts and shells practice on Tuesday. So too did running back Stevan Ridley. Among those missing from the workout wereAlbert Haynesworth, Brandon Spikes (whose malady hasn't prevented him fromcontinuing to tweet barely intelligible verse throughout the day), rookie running back Shane Vereen, rookie corner Ras-I Dowling, DL Mike Wright, wideouts Julian Edelman and Taylor Price and -- for the second straight day -- defensive endLB Jermaine Cunningham. Ochocinco's optic gold and yellow cleats didn't help him on a field goal attempt near the end of practice. He missed. So too did fellow wideout Wes Welker. Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran