Tom Brady – Brady was wearing a knee brace during the final day of mini-camp but one has to believe if it was anything serious, he would have been held out of practice altogether. The Pro Bowl quarterback wasn't all that accurate during the three-day camp but let's be honest, who really cares? All mini-camp is for Brady is the start of getting his arm ready for the season. He should look much more polished by the time training camp rolls around. One thing people outside New England may not grasp because of all the success he has had early in his career is: Brady is just now coming into his prime. He showed that last year by leading the NFL in passing yards and almost single-handedly carrying the offense at times because of injuries. Brady will continue to get even better over the next couple of seasons and that's a scary thought for NFL defenses.
Matt Cassel – I'm sure fans of other teams around the NFL get sick and tired of hearing about how great the Patriots scouting department is but a guy like Cassel is the reason why. You wouldn't know that Cassel hasn't started a game in over five years by watching him on the field. He has command of the offense and a cannon for an arm. Despite not playing much in college, Cassel looks comfortable entering his second season in the Patriots system. Sure, he's still raw and needs experience but he can throw the ball as well – if not better – than a lot of the veteran free agents still on the market. It seems like if the Patriots didn't believe Cassel would be their backup, they would have brought in a veteran by now. As it stands at the present time, Cassel will be backing up Brady this year and his future with the Patriots looks bright.
Corey Bramlet and Todd Mortensen – One of these guys could end up on the practice squad but that's about it for now. Bramlet looked good in rookie mini-camp and Mortensen did a decent job in NFL Europe but both players struggled in the team's recent mini-camp. Bramlet and Mortensen both lack the physical ability and arm strength to be much more than a third-string quarterback at the pro level. Bramlet really struggled with his accuracy during camp and if it came down to making the practice squad right now, Mortensen may have a slight edge because of his showing in NFL Europe.
Overview: Brady is the best quarterback in football, period. He's proven it time and time again and as long as he's on the field, the Patriots always have a chance to make the playoffs. Last season Brady proved to his critics that he not only has what it takes to win championships but he can put up big numbers and carry his team if he's asked to take on that role. There's no reason to believe that Brady won't have another MVP-type season in 2006.
Cassel gets more impressive with every ball he throws. He's probably one more year away from becoming a dependable, solid backup but the Patriots will most likely just role the dice and go with him this year. Cassel has that leadership quality about him and he really seems to be grasping this offense. The fact that Cassel got better as the game went on against Miami last year was a good sign. As of right now, the second-year signal caller looks to be the Patriots backup quarterback.
There's a good chance that the team could bring in a low-priced veteran quarterback just to have some experience behind Brady. If they do go this route, expect the player they bring in to be the third quarterback, not the second. The Patriots probably have no interest in someone like Kerry Collins or Tommy Maddox but a guy like Jeff Blake – who has experience starting in the NFL and won't cost much – is a player they could bring in for a look. If the Patriots do bring in a veteran quarterback, don't expect it to be a big name because the team seems content on entering the season with Cassel as their backup.
As long as Brady is around, the Patriots will always have one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Having that luxury will make New England – at the very least – competitive year in and year out.