Mallett picked himself up after pick

7 of 9 after INT
By Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / August 20, 2011

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After the Patriots’ preseason opener against Jacksonville, some wondered whether Ryan Mallett would supplant Brian Hoyer as the No. 2 quarterback. On Thursday night, the rookie showed he’s still a work in progress.

Mallett wasn’t terrible against Tampa Bay, but you’d have to think the Patriots don’t plan on trading or cutting Hoyer now.

Of all rookies affected by the lockout, quarterbacks suffered the most. NFL offenses are complex, and New England’s, by many accounts, is more complex than most. It takes months, if not years, to feel truly comfortable with it, and Mallett has been at it for just a few weeks.

Hoyer was Tom Brady’s only backup as an undrafted rookie in 2009 - the season Brady returned from knee surgery - but he had the benefit of spending the spring and summer learning the playbook.

Against the Buccaneers, Mallett finished 9 of 14 for 71 yards and one interception.

The pick came on his third pass attempt and was returned 69 yards for a touchdown. Mallett looked to his right and pumped, then looked left - only there was no Patriots receiver in the area. Cornerback Elbert Mack was, and the ball went right into his arms.

But Mallett bounced back, and that is important for the coaching staff to see.

“Of course you don’t want to see negative plays happen, but eventually they’re going to happen in this league,’’ coach Bill Belichick said yesterday. “So whether it was Tom getting sacked in the two-minute drive or Ryan throwing an interception or Brian throwing an interception that the corner dropped that would have been run back for a touchdown, you do want to see how players respond to those plays.’’

When the Patriots got the ball back, Mallett’s first play was a handoff to Stevan Ridley, followed by an incompletion to Jeremy Ross. Mallett then picked up a first down with a pass to Ridley.

After a fumble by Ridley ended that possession, Mallett led a seven-play drive that ended with a 44-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski.

After his pick-six, Mallett completed 7 of 9 passes. He didn’t let the mistake linger.

“That’s unfortunately part of the game and seeing how people respond to that type of adversity or negative play. Do they go in the tank? Does one bad play become two? Does one missed block become three? Or do they bounce back and right the ship and then settle down and do a better job?’’ Belichick said. “I think that’s part of the evaluation with really all of our players and if they play enough they all have those plays.

“Ryan got a few blitzes there in the last series he was in. They gave him a couple of different looks: the weak safety look off the weakside, a couple of strongside blitzes. He saw those plays pretty well after the interception, so I thought he did handle himself pretty well considering there were a couple of tough looks there.’’

After going 12 of 19 for 164 yards and a touchdown against the Jaguars, excitement started to build around Mallett. He can throw bombs and zip balls to receivers, and the extra time he’s dedicated to improving his footwork is evident.

Asked if Mallett was given a longer look than Hoyer against Tampa Bay, Belichick said, “I think all three quarterbacks had a pretty decent number of snaps. By the time we get through practice and the preseason games and all that, we’ll distribute snaps as much as we can to get an evaluation of the players the way we feel like we need to evaluate them.’’

Every member of the Patriots, not just Mallett, has work to do, according to Belichick.

“Overall, all the players, and the coaches too, we all need to play and coach with more consistency and more awareness and just sharpen it up,’’ he said. “There’s no other way to put it. We all just have to sharpen up our skills. Luckily, we have a couple more games to do that with in the preseason before we get to Miami, but I think we all need it.’’

Shalise Manza Young can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.

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