FOXBORO, Mass. — New England Patriots fans didn’t find out until after kickoff Thursday who would be starting under center in their team’s preseason opener.
Jimmy Garoppolo was right there with them, as Tom Brady’s decision to take the field against the Green Bay Packers was news to him, too.
“(I found out) right when you guys did,” Garoppolo said after the Packers knocked off the Patriots 22-11 at Gillette Stadium. “We don’t really know any heads-up stuff.”
But while Brady did get the start — and completed 1 of 4 passes for 10 yards — the man running the Patriots’ offense for the majority of night was, as expected, Garoppolo.
The second-year signal-caller handled all but the first two series for the Patriots (third-stringer Ryan Lindley did not see action) and struggled — albeit in conditions drastically different than he’d see in a regular-season game. The New England offense was a shell of its normal self, with tight end Rob Gronkowski, receivers Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Brandon LaFell and Aaron Dobson, and four-fifths of the projected starting O-line all sitting this one out.
With most of his weapons unavailable, Garoppolo instead tried — and failed — to feed third-year wideout Josh Boyce. Just two of their nine attempted hookups ended up in Boyce’s hands, and one resulted in the game’s lone interception when Packers cornerback LaDarius Gunter outmuscled Boyce for a ball along the left sideline.
“JB is a good player out there,” Garoppolo said. “He’s very athletic, quick, fast. He’s got a lot of tools in his tool belt. I missed him on a couple of those deep balls — I was a little upset about those. You’ve got to take advantage of those, really.”
Garoppolo enjoyed much more success when throwing to other receivers, completing 18 of 21 passes to players not wearing No. 82. Almost all of those were of the short-yardage variety, however, as his longest completion was a 17-yard catch-and-run by running back James White.
In all, Garoppolo completed 20 of 30 passes for 159 yards. He also was sacked seven times behind the Patriots’ reserve-laden offensive line.
“There were ups and downs,” Garoppolo said. “I’ve got a long way to go, obviously. Eleven points isn’t by any means a good number.
“… I didn’t really get a chance to break it all down yet and see the film, but you can always get the ball out of your hand faster. That’ll help eliminate a lot of (the mistakes), probably. I haven’t really seen it yet, so I don’t know.”
This will be an unusual month for the 23-year-old QB, as his immediate future is directly tied to Brady’s Deflategate suspension hearing currently ongoing in New York City. He’ll have to prepare as if he will be New England’s Week 1 starter, knowing full well that a ruling in Brady’s favor immediately will bump him back to the bench.
His strategy? Keep consistency wherever possible.
“I’m taking it day by day,” Garoppolo said. “I’m going into it pretty much the way I would whether this was going on or not. You have — whether you’re the backup, starter, third string, whatever it may be — you have to have that mindset that you’re the starter. In training camp, there’s a lot of repetition, a lot of guys mixing and matching, so you have to be able to play with multiple guys.”
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images
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