In late July, New England head coach Bill Belichick told us to forget about newly signed veteran quarterback Jim Miller for the duration of training camp. Miller was recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and not only wouldn't participate in camp, but would be an unknown among the backup quarterbacks. Just over a month and two preseason games later, the start of the regular season is now just two weeks away.
Miller has been throwing for several weeks, and his progress towards taking the field again appears to be closer than originally expected. Doctors told Miller it would be six to seven months before he could return following March surgery, which was delayed six weeks due to infection, but the 10-year veteran says he is currently "way ahead" of schedule.
"I think I am getting closer," Miller said. "I think from last week to this week, I've made great progress and I just hope it continues. Before I was kind of going and I plateaued a little bit, but the last week everything has picked up a little bit.
"I feel I'm ready to get back out there. I want to get back out there."
Miller's returned will be contingent on the strength of his shoulder in being able to make the necessary throws and taking hits. Belichick said this week he "didn't know" if Miller would play in either of the final two preseason games. Neither was willing to put a timetable on what could now be labeled a pending return.
"I'm not going to try and make any predictions on him," Belichick said. "He's getting better. He's gaining strength back. I think that he is a lot closer – way closer – than he was two or three weeks ago. We'll take it day-by-day and see how it comes along. I know he's working hard and has got himself in good condition. I've really been impressed with his work ethic. When exactly that day will be I'm not sure. We're a whole lot closer to it than we were a few weeks ago, so that's good."
A healthy return by Miller by the start of the regular season could be a huge boost in the backup competition behind Tom Brady. Third-year quarterback Rohan Davey has looked generally inconsistent in two preseason contests, completing 18-of-39 passes for 156 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Kliff Kingsbury took only a handful of snaps in the preseason opener, completing all three of his passes for five yards against Philadelphia.
If Miller isn't deemed healthy before the final cut-down date, it could make for an interesting decision regarding the final roster. Belichick may be forced to make a decision on a player who has yet to see live action.
"If that cut was today, you'd be talking about several players in that category, that either haven't played or they played briefly and haven't played in awhile," he said. "Those would be tough decisions, because you're really speculating where you think the guy is going to be or even where he is right now. Those are the situations that make it hard, guys that you haven't seen or guys that you have just seen for a brief amount of time, and trying to compare them to guys that have been out there practicing 20 or 25 practices. You have a lot better idea of the consistency and the level of their performance. That definitely is going to be tough."
Klemm In The Mix
As long as he stays healthy, it appears Adrian Klemm remains in the mix along the offensive line. Belichick said Klemm continues to challenge for playing time despite missing part of the last two seasons with injuries and questions about his durability. A second-round draft pick in 2000, Klemm has made 10 career starts at both guard and tackle during his 24 career games with the Patriots. Along with Brandon Gorin, Klemm received plenty of reps early in the preseason with the absence of tackles Tom Ashworth and Matt Light.
"I think he is challenging for playing time at tackle," Belichick said. "I think he also, in terms of the best five, could challenge for playing time at guard, if that is what it comes to. I think that he has had a good, consistent camp in terms of being out there, getting a lot of reps and working hard. I think he is in good condition. I think he has had a good camp. He has really helped himself."
They Said It
"He's pretty even-keeled. You know you don't want to beat a dead horse. You don't want to kick somebody when they are down. But at the same time you don't want to overlook the obvious stuff. So he just kind of did what he always does. He just treats us like we are normal people and says, 'Listen, look at this. This is just unacceptable.' And if you are a player who cares about his performance then you are like, 'Yeah, you are right. We need to step it up a little more.' Because no matter who we play or where we play them, preseason or regular season, the games are going to be a lot tougher. No matter what a guy looked like the week before, when they play us it will be a different story," – Christian Fauria on Belichick's response to losing in Cincinnati.
Everything Is An Option
Belichick said he wouldn't rule out any option – presumably a trade or free agent pickup – that gives the Patriots a chance to acquire better talent. He was referring specifically to the injury to rookie safety Guss Scott, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in Saturday's game. Scott was placed on injured reserve yesterday and will be out for the season. The loss of Scott leaves question marks regarding depth at safety.
"I'll say the same thing I've always said," Belichick said. "We're always looking to improve our team, however we can do that. If we can do it in a way that is beneficial, then we'll look into it and try to do it. Sometimes those opportunities are there, sometimes they're not. I haven't told the scouts, or Scott [Pioli], 'We've got to go out and do this,' or, 'We have to go out and do that.' Just procedurally, we're looking at all the things we normally look at, and we don't know what the opportunities are going to be. You can't sit here and predict who is going to be released or who is going to be available or not be available next week. You just have to do your homework, take your best guess."