Football is back! The first preseason game of the year ended in defeat for the Patriots, but more important than the score of the game is how individual players looked. With the debate surrounding the Patriots’ backup quarterback situation this off-season, how Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett perform this preseason could influence the plans for the position moving forward. With this in mind, I asked Patriots fans to decide which of the backups they wanted to see a film breakdown of. 60% of voters decided on Jimmy Garoppolo, so here we (after a slight NFL Gamepass-related delay) go.
With Tom Brady getting the night off, Jimmy Garoppolo was tabbed as the starter for the first preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Garoppolo put up impressive numbers, completing 22 of 28 attempts for 235 yards and two touchdowns. While the media provided effusive praise, Garoppolo’s performance doesn’t quite live up the numbers. Let’s take a closer look.
The biggest takeaway from the fourth year quarterbacks performance is that he showed an impressive feel for the pocket and where pressure was coming from.
The Jaguars get immediate pressure up the middle, and Garoppolo sees it and rolls away from the pressure as soon as he sees it. This isn’t always the right thing to do, but in this situation Garoppolo had no other choice. He keeps his eyes downfield and finds his man to pick up a first down from third and long.
The touchdown everyone has seen by now is another good example of his pocket management. Dante Fowler gets inside leverage on LaAdrian Waddle (not a good look for Waddle’s roster hopes) and forces Jimmy to bail from the pocket. An argument could be made he should’ve stepped up with Jamil Douglas helping out on Fowler, but Fowler would’ve had an opportunity to get a hand on Jimmy if he did. Garoppolo resets his feet and looks downfield, making the throw for the touchdown to Austin Carr.
This wasn’t a perfect play—fading and throwing off his back foot is a recipe for disaster, and the throw wasn’t particularly accurate—but when you evade pressure the way he did, and the result is a touchdown, those can be forgiven.
Beyond his pocket movement, Garoppolo flashed the ability (if inconsistently, more on that later) to make some impressive throws into tight windows.
Crowded pocket, hands jumping in his face, tight window, third and long, money throw. High enough the underneath LB’s can’t reach, behind his TE’s ear so the safety can’t come in and break it up, in a place that only his receiver can go get it, and Jacob Hollister did just that. First down.
30 yards down the field, 25 yards across the field. Find the length of the hypotenuse. Nearly 40 air-yard throw to the sideline, he may have been a little late getting to the target, but delivers a strike for a big first down on a deep comeback.
Lastly, probably my favorite throw he made on the night. Get to the top of your drop, set, back-shoulder throw the CB can’t do anything about in 1-on-1 coverage, easy first down on a throw that’s more difficult than it looks.
Garoppolo made some atrocious throws in this game, speaking to the inconsistency mentioned in the above section. He started the game off very slowly, which can be argued as just shaking off some rust and getting into a rhythm, or as struggling against the Jaguars starters and picking on the backups.
Garoppolo has a chance to put his team in the red zone, and correctly attempts to make a back-shoulder throw with a safety closing over the top and the defender step for step on Devin Lucien’s inside shoulder. Garoppolo can’t even give Lucien a chance to make the play, however, as he leads him out of bounds.
The pocket movement here deserves to be in the “Good” section, but the throw lands it here. After a pump fake and stepping up in the pocket to evade the initial pressure, Jimmy finds his tight end wide open and completely misses him.
This could’ve been 6. This should’ve been a big play. This was almost an interception. Garoppolo is late getting the ball out and not only underthrows his man, but leads him so far inside the ball almost landed in the safety’s (who started about 10 yards to the right of the play) hip pocket.
I mean...come on. Yes, Dion Lewis managed to get a hand on it. Working from a completely clean pocket with a receiver more than 3 yards clear of any defender and facing directly at you, only ~9 yards away, there is no excuse for that ball to land anywhere other than his numbers.
Finally, a completed pass, but this is how you get your receivers killed. Open window to throw in and Garoppolo leads Hollister too far. Hollister makes a great play on the ball, and then pays the price for doing so, getting hit in the head twice immediately after catching the pass. (*Note: There was an issue uploading this gif, I had to use a different site to do so. It needs to be clicked on or hovered over to play, it will not autoplay like the others)
The Patriots did not ask Jimmy Garoppolo to do a whole lot. Most of his completions came on screens and dump-offs. He made some impressive throws but for every good one he had, he cancelled it out with an equally bad one. He heated up as the game went on, but as already mentioned, it’s tough to tell whether to attribute that to Garoppolo settling in, or him finding success against the Jaguars backups (Jacksonville played most of their defensive starters in the game).
Ultimately, my biggest takeaway was Garoppolo’s pocket movement. He was under pressure quite frequently in this game and generally knew when to step up and maneuver in the pocket and when to bail and try to extend the play with his legs. This was the one area of his game I came away from pre-season week 1 truly impressed with. This game provided us with more of the same from Garoppolo: Enough flashes to provide hope for the future, enough downside to question if he’s actually a part of it.