Tha Sports Junkies 101

Who Is Patriots’ QB Jimmy Garoppolo And Does He Have What It Takes?

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The Patriots without Tom Brady is kind of like peanut butter without jelly or milk without cookies. They may be alright on their own, but neither one is as good without the other. Brady has started practically every single game for the Pats since 2001, minus the 2008 season when he missed the whole year due to a torn ACL. 2008 was also the only season since 2001 that the Patriots have missed the playoffs.

Brady is widely considered to be the best quarterback of this generation and maybe of all-time. Replacing someone as special as him isn’t an easy task. When Brady received a 4 game suspension last year for his role in Deflategate the onus fell to young and inexperienced Jimmy Garoppolo to lead the Super Bowl favorites.

Unless you’ve been living under the worlds largest rock, you know Brady has since won an appeal and played a full season before again being suspended, and ultimately now losing an appeal this off-season. This leaves Garoppolo back in a familiar role as a filler.

Garoppolo, 24, grew up in Illinois and made his name in college at Eastern Illinois. This was the same college that produced Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo. As a senior in 2013, he broke Romo‘s school records for career passing touchdowns, yards and passing touchdowns in a season. In that record breaking Senior season he threw for 5,000 yards and 53 TDs and earned the Walter Payton Award for best offensive player in the country.

Going into the 2014 draft many teams were high on his quick release and quick decision making inside the pocket. Not surprising that the Patriots snatched him up in the 2nd round.

Since being drafted Garoppolo has had little opportunity with Brady in front of him. He made his debut in the 4th quarter of a Patriots‘ blowout loss to Kansas City in 2014, leading the offense to a touchdown on a 13-yard pass on his first drive.

The rest of his rookie season he played in 6 games, ending the season going 19 of 27 on his passes for 182 yards and a touchdown with a 101.2 passer rating.

In 2015, he only threw 4 passes in the regular season, as Brady went on his revenge tour against the NFL. Garoppolo saw most of the action in last years preseason and at times was impressive. He completed 61 passes on 80 attempts for over 500 yards and 2 TDs with 2 INTs. During this time he didn’t see a whole lot of action with the first team targets, namely Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman.

This years upcoming preseason will feature even more Garoppolo as he adjusts to being a NFL starting quarterback, even if it is only for 4 games. With Brady nearing the end of his career this could be a stepping stone for a future within the franchise or a opportunity to be viewed by other teams such as Brock Osweiler had for Denver this year.

Tom Brady is perhaps one of the most cerebral players in NFL history. Not many players have ever had his ability to adjust at the line of scrimmage. Garoppolo is still in his infancy when it comes to in game IQ.

However, Pats star TE Rob Gronkowski expressed his support of his progress recently on Sirius XM’s NFL Radio’s ‘Movin’ the Chains, “He’s taken a big step over the past two years. You see him this year and come in at the line, switching the play call, seeing the coverage’s well, reading the linebackers, who is who and what coverage it is. He’s doing a great job this camp so far and it’s still early, it’s just July.”

The Patriots offense has long had success in the passing game utilizing their running backs and tight ends. This year Gronk won’t be the only weapon Garoppolo and Brady have in the middle of the field because of the signing of Martellus Bennett.

Bennett has had success in his career as a vertical and red zone threat for the Cowboys and Bears. He also has had his struggles in fitting into a team environment. A positive for him is that usually Bill Belichick has a way of molding guys into team players. I guess that is something winning consistently does.

Garoppolo will look to both Bennett and Gronk early and often. The last few years the Pats have expertly run a 2-minute drill like offense all game. They have kept Brady upward and comfortable by throwing a lot of 2-3 step drop intermediate routes with run plays when needed. It is a formula that aids in eliminating mistakes if you have proper pre-snap reads.

As good as the tight ends have been, the receivers have had their problems. In fact, the Pats offense ranked in the top 10 in drops last season with 30, most of those coming from their often inept WRs. If Garoppolo is going to be successful it will be about putting those guys in good positions and not overexposing them. Edelman is primarily the only guy other than Gronk that could be trusted last year and even he suffered from the dropsies sometimes.

The Jets and Bills are much improved and will be looking to get an early division lead without Brady the first quarter of the season.

New York‘s resigning of QB Ryan Fitzpatrick puts them in a good place trying to build on last years 10-6 record. Whereas, the Bills, who started of hot and simmered out, look for a healthier and more consistent run this year.

The Bills will get a shot at the Brady-less Pats week 4, and you better believe Rex Ryan will be out for figurative and literal blood. The Dolphins will also get a chance to try and reestablish themselves as an AFC East contender week 2.

Fortunately for Garoppolo and the Pats, three of his starts will come in Foxboro. Unfortunately, the away game is week 1 in Arizona. The Cardinals defense is one that brings constant pressure and forces QB’s into many bad decisions, not an ideal atmosphere or defense to start against.

When all is said and done the Pats will have to face Arizona, Miami, Houston, and the Bills with Garoppolo at QB. If New England‘s defense is able to play halfway effectively they should still be in position to win the East late in the season. I see the Pats going 2-2 without Brady with losses to Arizona and Buffalo solely due to both teams ability to overwhelm teams with defensive schemes and pressure.

Garoppolo is more than capable of outplaying expectations. If he is able to at least go .500 a motivated Brady will be back and ready to show out. Many believe this is the year the Pats can be dethroned, but I wouldn’t bet on it.