BOSTON (CBS) — Thursday night’s preseason opener against the Washington Redskins was supposed to be Ryan Mallett’s time to shine, his chance to display his talent to the rest of the NFL so that he may get a chance to actually play in this league. With Tom Brady hanging on the sideline, the stage was set — this was Mallett’s team on Thursday night.
Unfortunately for the quarterback and the Patriots, Mallett basically fell flat on his face.
Granted, hardly anybody on the New England roster looked great, and obviously, it is wrong to make sweeping statements after a preseason game — particularly the first preseason game — but this performance was just that bad. Or, more accurately, it was the typical inconsistent performance from Mallett, who continues to possess a powerful arm but cannot seem to harness it.
By the numbers, it wasn’t atrocious. He went 5-for-12 for 55 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions while taking one sack. But watching the game, it was much worse than the numbers convey.
His incompletions bounced at receivers’ feet. He failed to get on the same page with receivers on option routes. He panicked after one particular snap and took off running for a minimal gain (he couldn’t even slide properly without getting his knee brace jammed into the turf). He threw to receivers who weren’t looking. He showed no touch on a screen pass and no poise to wait for his targets to get open. The running game couldn’t get anything going with Mallett under center, and he seemed to struggle at getting a good read on the defense while at the line of scrimmage.
In short, there were painfully few positives to take out of Thursday night’s performance. Instead of a “pop,” it was a flop.
“There was good, there was bad. A lot of stuff we have to work on,” Mallett said after the Patriots’ 23-6 loss.
The fact that rookie QB Jimmy Garoppolo looked dynamite in the second half shouldn’t really affect judgments on Mallett. After all, there’s reason to believe Garoppolo would have struggled had he faced better competition than what was in the game for the last two quarters.
No, this isn’t about Garoppolo so much as it is about Mallett. The fourth-year quarterback is supposed to be taking steps forward to show his professional growth, but instead he continues to run in place.
Nevertheless, Mallett did not express a lack of confidence after the game when he stepped to the podium.
“I felt good, I felt comfortable,” Mallett said. “Everything slowed down. I went through my reads. I made a few throws I could have made better, but I felt all right.”
Again, it’s just one preseason game, so conclusions can’t be drawn. But there’s no getting around the fact that this is not what the Patriots hoped to get out of Mallett.
On the positive side for Mallett, the same things were said about Matt Cassel in the 2008 preseason. At that time, the quarterback was in his fourth year with the Patriots and he similarly had very little game experience. In the preseason opener, Cassel went 1-for-4 with an interception. He wasn’t much better the next week (6-for-10, 57 yards), he took three sacks in week three, and by that point, all of New England believed Cassel would never be able to control an NFL offense.
That turned out to be a very premature conclusion, as Cassel was able to put together a solid season after Brady suffered his season-ending injury in Week 1. Cassel spent the 2008 season throwing for nearly 3,700 yards, 21 TDs and 11 INTs. (Admittedly, having Randy Moss and Wes Welker provided Cassel with just a bit of help to succeed.) In the offseason, he was slapped with the franchise tag and then made a whole heap load of cash ($40.5 million in his first three years) from Kansas City.
So it would be unwise to say that Mallett is done and has no hope of recovering. But, barring a devastating injury to Brady, it’s clear that Mallett needs to get a whole lot better in a very short amount of time.
Listen to The Boston Globe’s Ben Volin discuss Ryan Mallett, as well as the rest of the topics from the Patriots game, on Toucher & Rich below: