With the regular season fast approaching, the New England Patriots' coaching staff has been hard at work putting together the team it believes will best perform on the field. While there are still a great deal of questions yet to be answered by the staff, one of the more interesting ones happens to be who will win the role of Tom Brady's backup.

This season's options are three-year incumbent Ryan Mallett, who's currently entering the final year of his rookie contract, and rookie Jimmy Garoppolo, who was a surprise snag by New England in the second round of this past spring's draft.

It's clear, based on the early round selection of Garoppolo, that the Patriots' front office sees him as a legitimate potential successor to Brady, once his career concludes. With that in mind, many still believed that Mallett was the clear favorite to backup Brady as the preseason began, especially after he wasn't dealt to a contender in a pre-draft day move.

Garoppolo has surprised many though with his impressive play thus far in the preseason. In 81 snaps he has completed 24 of his 37 pass attempts for 334 yards. He's also thrown four touchdowns while managing to stay interception free in his first NFL action. While Garoppolo's stock has risen with his play, Mallett's has dropped a bit. In 75 snaps he has gone 14 for 26, compiling 161 yards and one touchdown. His numbers aren't bad but they are a far cry from what the young QB has put together with only a few more snaps under his belt.

With that being said, ESPN reported earlier today that Garoppolo is set to start and play most, if not all, of the team's final preseason game this Thursday. A move like that has to get you thinking that the Pats have liked what they've seen so far from the rookie and that he may have played himself into the backup role. If that's the case, it wouldn't make much sense for New England to continue to pay Mallett and keep three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster.

I wouldn't be shocked to see Mallett get traded to a team in need of a quarterback, who can offer the Pats some nice compensation, by next week if Garoppolo continues his string of preseason success Thursday night. Be sure to tune in and follow the backup battle as the regular season approaches.

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