In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last two months, you already know that Tom Brady won’t be playing in the New England Patriots first four games this season. Instead, third year quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will be taking the snaps under center, so what are the expectations for Jimmy G?
Garoppolo has received the majority of the Patriots snaps in the preseason and has looked rather sharp. In three games, he’s thrown for 401 yards on 36/54 attempts for one touchdown and no interceptions. To be fair, he has played two of the league’s most porous defenses in New Orleans and Chicago, but he’s done his job so far. I’m one of those people who takes little to no stock in preseason or training camp, so I won’t jump aboard the hype train until I see some serious and legitimate game action.
But, what Garoppolo does have going for him is experience in a regular season game. He has appeared in 11 regular season games, all coming in relief of Tom Brady. In those combined 11 games, Garoppolo has completed 20/31 passes for 188 yards, one touchdown and no picks.
That being said, the first four games will be a trying time for the supposed heir to Tom Braday’s throne. Week one is a primetime game against the Cardinals in Arizona, who are a popular pick to reach the Super Bowl. The Cardinals defense allowed the 7th least amount of points last season and got stronger with the addition of old friend Chandler Jones (still upset about that deal). Also coming after Garoppolo will be Calais Campbell and Rodney Gunter.
The Pats’ offensive line was its biggest weakness in 2015, but getting Nate Solder back is huge. Jonathan Cooper (acquired in the Jones trade) is a young guard with a lot of potential but hasn’t been able to stay healthy. As long as Marcus Cannon doesn’t see any time on the field, Jimmy G should be in solid hands.
In the secondary, Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu and DJ Swearinger lead the way for the second best secondary in NFL (behind Seattle). New England’s offensive weapons will have their hands full getting open and finding space.
Nervs will certainly play a factor for Jimmy as he makes his first NFL start, which will affect his performance.
Jumping forward to week two, Garoppolo gets his first home start against the Miami Dolphins, who are a tough team to gauge defensively. They are led by there defensive line, which lost Olivier Vernon, but picked up former #1 overall pick Mario Williams. Joining Williams are Ndomukong Suh and Cameron Wake, who have combined for 112 sacks in their careers.
However, their secondary is in much worse shape. Gone is Brent Grimes, who is now in Tampa Bay. In comes Byron Maxwell, a former member of the Legion of Boom in Seattle, who had a terrible year in Philadelphia for the Eagles. Reshad Jones is a solid, yet still young safety. Outside of those two guys, there isn’t much quality NFL experience.
If the offensive line can keep Garoppolo upright and give him time in the pocket, there is no reason he can’t throw the ball all around the field on the Dolphins.
Week three features an elite defense coming into Gillette Stadium with JJ Watt and the new look Houston Texans making the trip north.
Obviously, the game plan will revolve around JJ, but he has quality pieces around him. Watt’s health is a big issue, as he’s currently recovering from back surgery. Old friend Vince Wilfork plugs the middle for the Texans, even if he’s fallen off since leaving New England. At linebacker, Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus and Brian Cushing can all cover and get after the quarterback.
The secondary features two solid, yet underrated corners in Kareem Jackson and Jonathan Joseph. Second year corner Kevin Johnson has big time potential after being drafted in the first round in 2015.
The Houston defense altogether is elite, but not one singular area of the defense is. JJ Watt’s health will go a long way in determining how effective Garappolo is.
Garoppolo’s final projected start for the 2016 season comes against division rival Buffalo. In 2014, Jimmy G came on in relief of Brady against the Bills and went 10/17 for 90 yards, so he has experience against this team.
The Bills’ defensive line doesn’t scare me, and it shouldn’t scare the Eastern Illinois product either. The secondary, however, is a different story. Ronald Darby and Stephon Gilmore are two good corners who are still getting better. Aaron Williams is a decent safety, as is Corey Graham.
Rex and Rob Ryan will certainly look to try and put the pressure on Garoppolo early and often, and if the offensive line can hold up, it could be a field day for Jimmy G.
Week 1 @Arizona- 19/35 208 yards. 1 TD, 3 INT
Week 2 vs. Miami- 24/34 287 yards. 2 TD 1 INT
Week 3 vs. Houston- 22/31 236 yards. 1 TD 1 INT
Week 4 vs. Buffalo- 27/37 302 yards. 3 TD 0 INT
Cover Photo via ProFootballSpot.com