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Position Preview - Quarterbacks

Brady's a sure thing, but after that, the battle begins for the backup spot.

There's really no suspense about this one.

Assuming he does what he has for the past 127 games (i.e., stay healthy), Tom Bradywill direct the Patriots offense again in 2008. He's one of the best quarterbacks of all time, and he's still at the top of his game.

The big question this year is, who would step in if (perish the thought) Number 12 were to go down for any length of time?

The incumbent backup is fourth-year player Matt Cassel, but he'll face a legitimate challenge from second-year man Matt Gutierrez. And perhaps the most athletically gifted of the group is also the youngest: rookie Kevin O'Connell, a third-round draft pick this year.

Cassel has been sporadic in his few game-time opportunities, all of which have come when the outcomes had seemingly been decided. He nearly led a come-from-behind victory march over the Dolphins in his rookie year, but last season in Miami, he was yanked in a blowout after tossing a pick-six to DE Jason Taylor.

Gutierrez really didn't have a chance to showcase himself as a rookie, but during spring practices, he appeared to be more comfortable in the team's system and his passes were thrown with precision and velocity.

O'Connell is intriguing because the Pats haven't drafted a QB this high since Drew Bledsoe (the first overall pick in the 1993 Draft). He was also a four-year starter and captain for San Diego State, where he often had to do most of the work to put points on the board with his legs as well as his arm.

Some football observers have speculated that there will have to be an odd man out in this rotation, but keep in mind that in 2000, Brady's rookie year, head coach Bill Belichickdecided to keep four signal callers.

That proved to be one of the smartest moves he ever made.

QBs - At a glance

Key Additions:
Kevin O'Connell (third round)


No. Player (Year):
12 Tom Brady (9th year)
16 Matt Cassel (4th year)
7 Matt Gutierrez (2nd year)
5 Kevin O'Connel (rookie)

Training camp storyline:
Who will emerge as Brady's backup, and will Belichick decide to keep four QBs on the active roster?

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