In a mildly surprising move, the New England Patriots will reportedly start rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in Thursday's preseason finale against the New York Giants. ESPN's Adam Schefter broke the news:
Jimmy Garoppolo expected to start Thurs vs. Giants and play majority, if not all, of game, Bill Belichick confirmed through team spokesman.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 25, 2014
Even with Jimmy Garoppolo starting Thursday night, Patriots have not yet decided who will be their No. 2 QB.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 25, 2014
What does this mean for the Patriots back-up quarterback battle?
Not a whole lot... at least until we see Garoppolo's performance in Thursday's game. At this point, the Patriots have had more than three years to evaluate Ryan Mallett. We've seen some improvement in his game, but at this point, we know who he is.
Garoppolo, on the other hand, is more of an unknown. He's been fantastic in each of his first three preseason games, but it would still be difficult to hand the #2 job over to him outright. The Patriots would like to see consistency from him, and Thursday's game will present a great opportunity to build on what he's done thus far in the preseason. The game will also likely (and hopefully) present Garoppolo's final chance at in-game, competitive snaps until next August.
Bottom line: every snap Garoppolo sees on Thursday is more important to his development than that of Ryan Mallett, who's likely in his last year with the team either way.