FOXBORO, Mass. — The first three days of training camp haven’t come easy for Jimmy Garoppolo, but the New England Patriots’ rookie quarterback still had a smile on his face after practice wrapped up Saturday.
Garoppolo is taking his struggles in stride and focusing on the next rep — something he learned from Tom Brady — rather than dwelling on his incompletions and interceptions.
“It’s kind of that next-play mentality,” Garoppolo said Saturday at Gillette Stadium. “You can’t really worry about it — move on to the next play. Every play is a new opportunity to get better.”
So far, Garoppolo’s errors have outweighed his triumphs, but he also has an uphill battle to climb, going straight from FCS-level Eastern Illinois to the NFL.
“It’s difficult at times,” Garoppolo said. “But, you know, it’s part of being a rookie. You don’t want to make a mental error twice. You don’t want to make a physical error twice. That’s a part of the NFL.”
Garoppolo completed 2 of 7 passes with an interception in 11-on-11 drills Saturday. The Patriots’ 2014 second-round draft pick completed 1 of 2 attempts in 7-on-7s with another interception, this one off Justin Jones’ fingertips. The rookie tight end could have hauled in the pass, but Garoppolo’s throw was behind him.
Garoppolo has struggled with timing and accuracy over the past three sessions. He’s holding onto the ball too long, and he’s having trouble leading his receivers down the field. Based on his play in practice, Garoppolo would take a lot of sacks and throw his fair share of interceptions if inserted into a game at this point.
The rookie, who looks miniscule at 6-foot-2 compared to 6-foot-6 Ryan Mallett and 6-foot-4 Brady, has a quick release, however, and he’s definitely the most athletic signal-caller on the Patriots’ roster.
Garoppolo’s struggles are accentuated because he’s constantly being juxtaposed with Brady, since the starter is taking reps directly after the rookie. And no matter how rough Garoppolo has looked at times this summer, it’s nothing compared to the struggles of the Patriots’ third-string quarterback from last season: Tim Tebow.
Garoppolo has a lot of learning to do in the next month, and for now, it’s time to hit the breaks on a Mallett trade or release. Garoppolo would have to show major improvement — which still is entirely possible — for the Patriots to feel comfortable carrying him as Brady’s backup.
Garoppolo doesn’t seem too worried about his struggles, and if all goes as planned for the Patriots, he won’t have to take a meaningful snap for a long time.
“Just picking up the offense just one day at a time really,” Garoppolo said. “Little bits and piece here and there. It’s a process. There’s going to be bumps along the way, but you just got to learn and improve on that.”
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