FOXBOROUGH – It’s a shuddering thought. The 2015 Patriots season is literally in the hands of someone named Richard Berman.
The 2015 preseason opener for the Patriots was supposed to be the region’s first look at Jimmy Garoppolo, who would be at the helm of the Patriot offense if any of Tom Brady’s four-game suspension in DeflateGate is upheld. Garoppolo played all but the first two offensive series for the Patriots, and while he didn’t look dog ugly, he had a rather uneven performance in a game won by the Green Bay Packers, 21-11 on Thursday night at Gillette Stadium.
Brady and the NFL were in New York on Thursday in front of Berman, a federal judge, to try and work on brokering a settlement in the DeflateGate sanctions laid down by Roger Goodell. Berman seemed to admonish the NFL more than he did the Patriots, giving Patriot Nation a sense of hope that Brady would be eventually relieved of missing any games. Berman also said that the case could drag on for two years, taking into account all exhausted appeals and such.
But if Berman rules that Brady must serve at least a one game suspension, and if the suspension is carried out in 2015, Thursday night gave everyone a glimpse of how the Patriots would fare under their second year backup quarterback. Admittedly, judging Garoppolo in this sort of situation is not really sound thinking, and Thursday night’s sample is not exactly brimming with validity. For most of the game, Garoppolo had second and third stringers around him, and the only wide receiver with any name recognition was Josh Boyce.
Garoppolo’s raw numbers were pedestrian but not too bad. He finished 20 of 30 passing for 159 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. His passer rating was 65.8. Of particular note was the fact that he was sacked seven times for 52 yards lost. Against mostly non-starters, Garoppolo never looked completely comfortable and was not able to move the Patriots consistently well.
But again, he did not have Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Brandon LaFell or Rob Gronkowski to throw to. Garoppolo did dink and dunk well, making most of his hay on screens and dump passes out of the backfield. James White, a running back, led the Patriots with 52 yards receiving. On the other hand, his one pick, to LaDarius Gunter, was a bad throw. He did not show a propensity to avoid the sacks, such as throwing the ball away or scrambling away from the pass rush.
If Garoppolo was not real sharp, the defense, particularly the first stringers, played generally well.
Malcom Butler, the eternal Super Bowl hero, and free agent Robert McClain, saw most of the action in pass defense. Butler made some nice plays, including a nice pass defensed in the end zone on Davante Adams. Down low, the front seven put good pressure on Aaron Rodgers with good coverage behind him. On several occasions, Rodgers was made to scramble around for several seconds before throwing the ball away.
The defense seemed bent on giving up yardage between the 20s, and tightening up in the Red Area. The first two Packer offensive drives ended in turnovers on downs, as the Patriots were able to stop the Packers on fourth down. On the first drive, Rodgers was forced to scramble left and threw a hurried pass into the end zone that was dropped by Eddie Lacy on fourth and goal at the two. Lacy was the victim on the second drive as well, as he was stuffed on fourth and one at the Patriot 34 by Dominique Easley.
The third Packer drive again ended inside the Patriot 10. On first and goal at the 8, Rodgers misfired on two passes and managed a one-yard dump to Adams. The Packers settled for a chip shot field goal by Mason Crosby.
Brady played only the first two offensive series. He finished only one of four passing, a ten-yarder to Brandon Gibson. It seemed like “what is he doing out there”, but the mere sight of Brady out there at all was a welcome sight for all fans worried sick over DeflateGate ending poorly.
Garoppolo has been getting mixed reviews from training camp. He has been missing receivers, not reading coverage well, and not settling into a rhythm. But there has been no cries of “draft bust” either. Often times the Patriots can give you the absolute wrong read on how the team and how individuals are doing. It could be that Garoppolo is merely working on situations rather than pure passing technique. Nobody is suggesting the breaking out of lifeboats just yet.
The next preseason game, next Saturday at New Orleans, won’t be a fair judge of Garoppolo’s ability either. Brady may get more reps in that game, and perhaps the word “suspension” will be taken off the table by then. If legal affairs remain status quo, Garoppolo will play mostly against second and third units. And again, he won’t have the Rolls Royce offensive weapons to throw to like Brady gets.
So for now, let the legal system run its course, and let Patriot training camp run its course also. Let Garoppolo keep to his own learning curve. Let Bill Belichick do what he does best. He will mold and shape the team the way he has always done in his 15-year Patriot coaching career.
And don’t worry about the Patriot offense unless there really is a reason to. Brady may be able to retire by the time writs of certiorari are filed with the United States Supreme Court. Along the way, Brady could possibly have tied new NFL Hall of Fame inductee Charles Haley with five Super Bowls won by an individual player. Lots of good things can still happen to the Patriots, including more championships.
Preseason game one is in the books. This game won’t mean one iota a month from now. Rest east, folks.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary