FOXBORO, Mass. — New England Patriots rookies face their first big test this week even before taking the field in Sunday’s season opener against the Miami Dolphins.
The Patriots are preparing for an opponent and installing a game plan for the first time in the NFL. Head coach Bill Belichick said preparing for the Dolphins will be a big jump for Patriots rookies, but certain aspects actually could come easier for the young players.
“I’m sure it’s a jump for them. I’m sure it’s a big jump,” Belichick said Wednesday at Gillette Stadium. “Of course, there’s an element unknown in this game. Personnel, we can really zero in on that, much more so than we have, knowing the differences between the different players that they’ll be facing, the schemes.
“In a way it’s harder, in a way it’s easier because it’s much more specific. There are a lot of things in training camp, we kind of have everything against everything. We have all our plays, we have all their plays. That’s not the way it is now. We’ve got our stuff narrowed down specifically to what our opponent is doing. In that respect, it’s less. But, in terms of detail and specifics, it’s a lot more. So, it balances out, I don’t know.”
Patriots rookies, almost naively, don’t seem too intimidated by the whole process.
“It hasn’t been a big change, it’s just game week,” first-round draft pick Dominique Easley said. “You just gotta stay on point, watch film, study more.”
Easley didn’t suit up for a preseason game this summer as he recovers from a torn ACL suffered last September during practice at the University of Florida. He said he’ll “hopefully” be ready to go Sunday against the Dolphins.
Rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is unlikely to play, unless disaster strikes for the Patriots, but as a backup, he still must prepare for every game like a starter.
“Not much changes,” Garoppolo said about the week leading up to a game. “Obviously everything amplifies going from the preseason to the regular season. It all counts now.”
The Patriots still have two more days to prepare for the Dolphins before leaving for Miami on Friday afternoon.