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Ryan Mallett, Tim Tebow set to go

Ryan Mallett (left) and Tim Tebow are lined up to succeed Tom Brady against the Eagles.
Ryan Mallett (left) and Tim Tebow are lined up to succeed Tom Brady against the Eagles.Charles Krupa/Associated Press/Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA — Tom Brady said this week that he didn't know how many snaps, if any, he'd be getting in the Patriots' preseason opener against the Eagles Friday night, and Bill Belichick certainly wasn't going to outline the plan for his three quarterbacks.

But it's the first exhibition game, and Brady typically plays a couple of series before ceding the huddle to his backups.

That means another chance for Ryan Mallett to show how he's grown as a player since being drafted in 2011, and also likely the first chance for Tim Tebow to play in a Patriots uniform as well.

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Mallett was on the field for a total of 24 snaps last year, which of course is just fine for the team since it means Brady made it through the season healthy. But for now, these exhibition games are the only chance Mallett has to shine, and he feels he's ready.

"I just feel confident in what I'm doing, I think my teammates feel the same way about me, so we'll see tomorrow," he said Thursday. "We'll go out there and compete like we have all week. The Eagles are a great organization; it's been a tough week of competition."

It's a given that Mallett will see a good amount of time against Philadelphia, but Tebow said he had no idea how long he'd play, if at all.

"I don't know; it's not something we've really talked about," he said. "[Belichick] said, 'Just be ready when your number is called.' "

Mallett said it was a long offseason, and that he's been looking forward to football. There were rumors, going back to draft weekend, that he might be traded, and then there was the arrival of the lightning rod Tebow, which made Mallett an afterthought for some of this camp.

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But the plain-spoken Arkansan said he had nothing to do with all those things, and that he's "happy being a Patriot."

He enjoyed getting time against the Eagles in practice this week — the majority of 11-on-11 work Tuesday and Wednesday was with Brady or Mallett at quarterback — and the opportunity it afforded him to get back into the film room.

"When you go against your guys for so long in camp, it gets . . . not old, but it's . . . it's not old but it's old," he said, laughing. "Seeing another jersey out there in practice is a lot of fun.

"We get to see looks we haven't seen during camp from them, and it's kind of like watching film at night, you get prepared for a game during the regular season, you get to watch the film and see what they're doing and make a few adjustments on the run."

Heading into his third season, he feels things are slowing down as he's gotten more comfortable in the offense.

Tebow also feels he's made progress since coming to New England almost two months ago.

"I feel like I'm getting better every single day," he said. "More comfortable with the offense, better timing with everybody around me, better understanding of what the coaches want me to do, and with the offense, with the reads and the timing.

"So it's just every day trying to get a little bit better, and it sounds cliché, but it's true. That's really what I'm focused on, and I know it's something that hopefully I've been able to accomplish."

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The offense runs a bit differently when Tebow is at quarterback, with more run plays, both for running backs and for him.

He could also see time on special teams against the Eagles.

Tebow has lined up as the personal punt protector several times during camp.

Both Mallett and Tebow are excited for Friday night and the opportunity to play, for however long it might be.

"If you're a competitor, you love it," Mallett said. "I feel like that's what I was born to do, and I can't wait."


Ben Volin of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Shalise Manza Young can be reached at syoung@globe.com.