Hoyer more secure as Pats backup QB in 2nd season
Brian Hoyer stood on the field moments before last year’s season
opener, an unlikely Patriot in an unlikely situation.
Undrafted out of Michigan State, he had made New England’s
roster as a free agent. More than that, he was the only backup all
year to Tom Brady, who had missed all but the first game of the
previous season with a knee injury.
”The one thing that I’ll never forget is that first game, that
Monday night game when those jets flew over” Gillette Stadium,
Hoyer said Tuesday. ”It just kind of hit me. This is the NFL. This
is where you’re meant to be.”
Now, nearly a year after that memorable flyover, Hoyer is
expected to see significant playing time Thursday night when the
Patriots end their exhibition schedule at the New York Giants. He’s
more comfortable and confident, a second-year pro much better
prepared to step in if necessary.
The butterflies remain, but they’re different now.
”This year, it’s butterflies about getting ready to play the
Giants, trying to figure out who’s going to be out there when I’m
playing against them, what defensive backs are going to be out
there,” he said, ”things like that. Last year I’m just worried if
I’m going to be here.”
But he made a positive impression quickly on coach Bill
In the first exhibition game last year, he completed 11 of 19
passes for 112 yards in a 7-6 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. In
the last one, a 38-27 win over the Giants, he was the only
quarterback to play for the Patriots and finished 18 for 25 for 242
yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.
”I think Brian was a fast starter and I think he caught
everybody’s eye pretty quickly,” Belichick said.
The third quarterback in camp this year is rookie Zac Robinson,
a seventh-round draft pick from Oklahoma State. He hasn’t had as
much opportunity to play as Hoyer did a year ago. With Brady
expected to play very little, if at all, on Thursday, Robinson
could enhance his chances of sticking with the team.
But he knows the Patriots kept only two quarterbacks last
”It’s really just out of my control,” Robinson said. ”We’ll
see what happens. I’m really thankful for the opportunity,
obviously, to be out here.”
The Patriots needed a second-stringer last year after Matt
Cassel, also a seventh-round pick, was traded to the Kansas City
Chiefs. In 2008, after three years as the backup, he took over
after Brady was hurt in the first quarter of the opener and had a
Even when he wasn’t playing, Cassel impressed Belichick.
Robinson still has a way to go.
”I don’t know that Zac has had the opportunity that Brian has
had,” Belichick said. ”I think that Brian (and) Matt Cassel,
those guys set the bars at pretty good level. I think it’s hard to
compare players’ development. Players don’t always develop at the
Hoyer was surprised when he didn’t get drafted but felt
confident he would sign as a free agent. And once he joined the
Patriots, he wasn’t surprised to get the word from quarterbacks
coach Bill O’Brien that he had made the team.
”It happened so quickly,” Hoyer said. ”Deep down inside I
felt a sense of accomplishment, but then you’ve just got to move on
and keep going and being prepared to be the backup.”
Hoyer has continued his growth since last season, when he played
in five games without a start. But he played in the second and
fourth quarters of the regular-season finale at Houston, completing
8 of 12 passes for 71 yards.
”That was crunch time. That was a real game,” he said. ”It
wasn’t a preseason game. It wasn’t a mopup duty game. (The Texans)
are trying to make the playoffs and I got an opportunity to play
against a good defense there, so that was invaluable.”