The New England Patriots are never exactly hurting at quarterback, since their starter is a guy whom many consider to be “The GOAT.” But the Patriots haven’t always had dependable backups behind Tom Brady. This year’s offseason workout program showed serious promise at the position.
The Patriots might have their best overall quarterback situation since 2005, when Brady was the starter, Doug Flutie was the backup and Matt Cassel was the future as a rookie. This year they have Jimmy Garoppolo, entering his third NFL season, and Jacoby Brissett, who was selected in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
Brady was fantastic, as always, during organized team activities and minicamp, but Garoppolo also looked like a starting quarterback this spring, and Brissett showed tons of promise as a rookie. Brady completed 80.1 percent of his overall reps during team drills with just one interception. He was 79.6 percent in 11-on-11 drills. Garoppolo completed 76.1 percent of his passes in team drills with three interceptions and went 77.3 percent in 11-on-11s. Brissett completed 66.9 percent of his passes in team drills with four interceptions. He completed 69.1 percent of his passes in 11-on-11s.
Brissett also showed dramatic improvement over the spring. He went 9 of 20 in his first practice open to the media, then completed 70.3 percent of his passes with three interceptions over his final four practices.
As someone who has watched every open Patriots practice since 2013, I’ve seen some ugly quarterback play from Tim Tebow, Ryan Mallett, Ryan Lindley and even the early days of Garoppolo. Though the competition is slim, Garoppolo clearly is the best backup they’ve had during that time period. He’s not as consistent as Brady, but he clearly has a great grasp of the Patriots’ offense, and he’s not showing the issues he had in years past with holding onto the ball too long, relying on his mobility and failing to lead receivers.
Brissett looked like Tebow in his first practice open to the media, sailing passes and staying in the pocket too long, but by the final OTA reporters were allowed to attend, he looked exponentially more comfortable.
It’s extremely difficult for quarterbacks to look good while completing against Brady every day in practice. Brady makes it very easy to weed out the Tebows and Lindleys. But Garoppolo and Brissett both held their own in OTAs and minicamp, and if Brady is forced to miss four games because of his Deflategate suspension, the Patriots appear to be in fine shape at quarterback.
Garoppolo clearly would be the starter, and Brissett proved capable enough to be the No. 2.
Patriots fans were unhappy when Bill Belichick selected Brissett in the third round of this year’s draft. But Belichick has always valued backup quarterbacks, and it appears they’ve successfully hit on two in the past three drafts.
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