As we head into training camp this week, we look at some of the bigger storylines surrounding several players and in today’s edition we look at Patriots quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo.
In his second year behind Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, it was obvious that Jimmy Garoppolo was well ahead of previous back-ups Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer, especially after watching the differences during training camp and the exhibition games. Watching him throw the football in practice and in live game action, he’s a player who unlike his predecessors has shown a calm presence and seems confident in everything he does. As a result, it’s easily the first time in a long time where a quarterback not named Brady has looked like a player who may not be the next journeyman passer to leave this football team.
He finished the preseason having completed 76.3% of his passes, leading all other quarterbacks in the NFL in that category. What makes that statistic even more impressive is the fact he did that while attempting 80 passes, 4th most in the exhibition season in 2015.
The only passes he attempted during the regular season in 2015 came in the final game toward the end of their finale against Miami, where Garoppolo was 1-of-4 throwing the football with New England trailing by 10 with 1:56 to go in a game that despite the score, the Patriots were never really in.
Garoppolo has handled his role as back-up well during his short tenure here in New England, but he has to be chomping at the bit knowing that he’ll head into the 2016 season as the starting quarterback while Tom Brady serves his 4-game suspension. He’ll find himself in a unique situation given that any other quarterback throughout the NFL would absolutely love to get their first starting opportunity knowing he’ll have targets like Rob Gronkowski, Martellus Bennett and Chris Hogan at his disposal. With Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola on PUP to start camp, the opportunity also is still there that possibly one or both of those players could also be available by the time the regular season kicks off.
Through the first four weeks, Garoppolo has a chance to establish himself as a commodity for another team based on his play, especially if what he’s shown in meaningless contests shines through during each of those games. Beating the Cardinals in Arizona would be quite a statement for the third-year signal caller, especially given that the entire country will be able to watch him make his NFL debut thanks to the fact it will happen during the league’s first Sunday night game of the season.
Garoppolo couldn’t have asked for a better scenario schedule-wise to fill in for Brady.
He’s also fortunate that after their bout in Arizona, the Patriots then have the luxury of playing the next three games at home against Miami, Houston and Buffalo, allowing Garoppolo to not have to play any of his remaining games in enemy territory. Although the last time Garoppolo played any extended snaps on the road, he went 6-of-7 throwing the football along with a touchdown pass during the team’s pivotal loss in 2014 out in Kansas City against the Chiefs.
One thing is for certain, and brace yourself for this notion because 2008 was a prime example of this point, the tenor of the last year with the support Brady has received from fans throughout New England will likely shift depending on how Garoppolo plays. After all, every quarterback the Patriots draft is taken as a contingency plan for the day when all of a sudden, Brady is no longer playing at a Brady-like level. The reason a second-round pick was used on Garoppolo was with the idea that the Patriots would have someone to keep them going when and that time does eventually come. That means if Garoppolo goes out and lights things up and Brady returns a little rusty in Week 5, Brady may find himself under the microscope for the first time in his career in a dynamic that will be strange to say the least.
For anyone who remembers 2008, there were whispers with those wondering what type of a blockbuster deal could be done to trade Brady just one year removed from leading the team to an undefeated record-setting regular season. Matt Cassel’s 11-5 record that year had a surprising number of people wondering if the Patriots would be better served to move on from Brady at that point, which ultimately would have proven to be the wrong move given how Cassel fizzled out after being shipped off after the season.
History has shown that you shouldn’t ever doubt Brady. Sadly, he won’t be able to play forever, and now 8-years later, we’re closer than ever to that inevitablity. Garoppolo taking the field during his absence is certainly a reminder of what the future holds. But Brady’s return in Week 5 will hopefully be the start of one more championship run, which obviously means how Garoppolo handles this opportunity will be a key part of Brady’s chance at redemption when he finally does return to action.
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