On Aug. 11, 2016, then-rookie Jacoby Brissett made his NFL preseason debut.
The ninth quarterback drafted in the Bill Belichick era took over for the eighth, Jimmy Garoppolo, that Thursday night as the second half got underway against the New Orleans Saints. And from there, Brissett proceeded to target DeAndre Carter, Chris Harper, Aaron Dobson, Devin Lucien, Clay Harbor, AJ Derby and Tyler Gaffney by the time the New England Patriots had left the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with a 34-22 victory.
Brissett had gone 7-of-13 passing for 63 yards with a pair of rushes for 19 yards by then.
He didn’t get sacked. He didn’t turn it over. And while just four of his plays gained north of 10 yards, the 6-foot-4, 235-pounder by way of Florida and North Carolina State didn’t allow the reserve Saints defense to make any big plays, either.
Fast-forward 364 days and it was a similar story for Brissett.
The former third-round pick entered for Garoppolo at the 5:14 mark of the third quarter Thursday evening versus the Jacksonville Jaguars.
It was later than expected. It was when Brissett turned to the likes of Lucien, D.J. Foster, K.J. Maye, Jacob Hollister, Sam Cotton and Austin Carr with his passes. But he showed commitment from the ground up as climbed the pocket and found a comeback route to Maye for 17 yards. He showed the arm to rifle a third-and-15 to Hollister between the hashes and the safeties, as well as a go pattern down the right sideline to Lucien that drew pass interference. He showed the mobility to elude a blindside blitz and shovel one off to Cotton, too.
He was sacked once.
This is the time to see all of that.
“It was an opportunity to go out there and put something good on film,” Brissett told reporters in his postgame press conference, via Patriots.com, “and an opportunity to play an NFL football game, which is a dream come true. So, just got to go out there and make the most of it, and just learn from this.”
Brissett, now 24, isn’t as quick to get rid of the ball as Garoppolo or Tom Brady in an offense that’s predicated on it. His willingness to pull the trigger takes some convincing. His release is a little more long-winded. His short-area passes have the gas but don’t always have the touch, exemplified by an overthrow on fourth down that sailed through the back of the end zone. And his shots deep can fall along the same lines, as seen by the Hail Mary liner that closed it out.
“You try to go win the game,” said Brissett. “That’s probably why I sailed it 10 yards out of bounds, so I got to control that a little bit.”
Maybe that’s just who Brissett is at this stage. He’s meshing processing with physical talent, and running two-minute drills with several players who weren’t his teammates in 2016, let alone in June.
“It’s a work in progress,” added Brissett. “It comes with hard work and just staying after it, getting in as many throws as you can. Talking through a lot of things, ball placement and stuff like that. I think it definitely comes with hard work.”
The game is beginning to slow down for Brissett a year after he made his Patriots debut.
Thursday night at Gillette Stadium added paint to the canvas when it comes to a third-stringer who was thrown into the fire for two starts and three appearances last regular season; one who completed 61.8 percent of his passes for 400 yards, was sacked six times, rushed for 83 yards on 16 carries with one fumble and one touchdown – and had surgery to repair a right thumb ligament.
It was supposed to be a redshirt. It wasn’t.
“Definitely a lot more comfortable,” Brissett said. “You get to do a lot of things a lot faster. That was one of my goals going into this, just to go out there and a faster operation that I did last year.”
New England’s 31-24 exhibition loss to Jacksonville provided a glimpse of what you’d hope to see as a follow-up to last year. There was good and bad. There was a sample.
And for Brissett, who noted earlier this week that the “most important part” of his growth has been the reps spent watching, that was key.
He handled the reps spent playing.