We have entered the deepest depths of the NFL offseason. Free agency and the draft are behind us, while minicamp and training camp won't start until early June and late July, respectively.
However, while the football world seemingly turns slower these days it does not stop. After all, by late August, each team has to start making its roster cuts. Until then, players have to secure their spots on the team; they need to do their jobs (well) or someone else will.
Over the course of the next few weeks, we will take a look at the men fighting for those spots on the 2016 New England Patriots. Today, we'll take a look at quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
Name: Jimmy Garoppolo
Jersey number: 10
Size: 6'2, 225 lbs.
2015 review: Since getting selected by the Patriots in the second round of the 2014 draft, Garoppolo has been Tom Brady's sole backup. As such, he had a great responsibility: being able to step in for Brady whenever needed. Luckily for New England, Garoppolo's services were needed neither in 2014 nor in 2015 (at least in competitive games).
Garoppolo played 69 snaps (6.1%) in his rookie season, but saw the field for only 13 snaps (1.2%) in 2015. Overall, he attempted a mere four passes – all in week 17 – completing one for six yards. Of course, while his regular and postseason snaps were limited or nonexistent, Garoppolo saw plenty of time in the preseason.
The 24-year old attempted the most passes of the Patriots' quarterbacks in the 2015 preseason and saw extensive time in all four of the team's contests. While they do not count in the standings, they do give Garoppolo experience that is hard to duplicate on the practice fields.
2016 preview: While the Patriots did not need Garoppolo to step up his first two seasons, they will more probably than not need him in 2016. After all, the Court of Appeals reinstated Tom Brady's four game suspension to start the season – and while the legal battle is far from over, Brady's chances of winning it do not look good.
Consequently, Garoppolo has to be ready to start New England's first four games: on the road against the Arizona Cardinals, and at home against the Miami Dolphins, Houston Texans and Buffalo Bills. Even with Brady at the helm the game in Arizona was projected to be a tough one, so a loss would therefore not come as a surprise. The other three teams, however, do not have the top-to-bottom depth the Cardinals have and the Garoppolo-led Patriots could be able to take advantage.
Of course, another advantage for Garoppolo and the coaching staff is the fact that they have the entire summer to work on building the offense to fit the young quarterback's strengths. Then again, if the parties involved will be able to keep the unit effective remains to be seen – and cannot be answered until he takes the field on opening day. Just like the question whether or not Garoppolo will stay the starter even if he struggles in his first games, although considering the other current options it seems likely that he will.
Once Brady returns from his possible suspension, Garoppolo – it seems unrealistic to think otherwise – will be back as the Patriots' number two option at the position. And also back to seeing minimal snaps.
The Patriots' drafted Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round to give them the best option to potentially step in for Brady when needed. Now, it seems likely (although not set in stone) that he has to do just that for the first four games of the 2016 season.
Garoppolo has shown flashes of efficiency within New England's offense – tailor-made for Brady and his elite capabilities – and could therefore be a successful starter. Will he really be? That's one of the biggest questions entering the 2016 NFL season.