Jun 5, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo (10) , Tom Brady (12) and Ryan Mallett (15) warm up during organized team activities at the Patriots Practice Facility. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Let's Pump the Brakes on Jimmy Garoppolo And Other Observations

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Let’s Temper Our Expectations of Jimmy Garoppolo

I’m here to provide sobering news–as if you needed any more after last night’s preseason clunker. Have a look at the following:

  • 45 attempts, 29 completions, 362 yards, 64.4 completion %, 85.6 quarterback rating;
  • 34 attempts, 19 completions, 165 yards, 55.9 completion %, 56.6 quarterback rating.

Stat line number one: Matt Gutierrez’ performance during the 2008 preseason. Stat line number two: Matt Cassel’s performance during the 2008 preseason.

A surprise to many–including myself–Bill Belichick handed the reigns to Matt Cassel after Tom Brady suffered a season-ending ACL injury during week one of the 2008 season. After an abysmal preseason, many assumed Matt Cassel would serve as the third-string quarterback behind both Tom Brady and Matt Gutierrez; obviously that wasn’t the case. Cassel went on to lead the Patriots to an impressive 11-win season. Matt Gutierrez, on the other hand, failed to make the final 53-man roster.

I say that to say this: as bad as Ryan Mallett looked, and conversely, as well as Jimmy Garoppolo played last night, let’s pump the brakes just a bit. I’m not saying Ryan Mallett has the ability to step in and play as well as Matt Cassel did in 2008. I’m certainly not saying Jimmy Garoppolo–like Matt Gutierrez in 2008–will fail to make the final 53-man roster (that’s not happening). What I am saying, however, is that it’s a practice in poor judgment to jump to conclusions based off one preseason game.

I’m confident Jimmy Garoppolo is the future quarterback of the New England Patriots (quick aside: I’ve never seen a quarterback with a quicker release than Garoppolo–very impressive). I’m confident the Patriots will hold on to Ryan Mallett (as they’d receive next to nothing for him in a trade). I’m also confident that–god forbid Brady suffers an injury–Mallett, not Garoppolo, would start (at least until the bye-week) for the New England Patriots in 2014.

A Couple of Observations

  • I’m nervous about Brandon Browner: with the refs cracking down on defensive backs this upcoming season, I can’t help but worry about Brandon Browner. In 2012 (the last season in which Browner played all 16 regular season games), he was flagged 10 times, most of any Seattle defensive back. At 6’4,” 220 lbs, Browner must rely on physicality to win against smaller, faster receivers, so it should come as no surprise that he gets flagged more than most corners. I’m not implying that Browner won’t be an asset for the Patriots, but it’s something to monitor moving forward.

 

  • Brandon LaFell flashed last night: I questioned the Patriots’ signing of Brandon LaFell, but I liked what I saw last night. LaFell finished with only two catches for 16 yards, but he appeared to get consistent separation early in the game; unfortunately, Mallet struggled to get him the ball. With prototypical size, of which Edelman and Amendola lack, LaFell could fill a void for the Patriots at wide receiver in ’14

 

  • Malcolm Butler did more in one half of a preseason game than Darius Butler did in his entire career with the Patriots: playing opposite Brandon Browner, Malcolm Butler looked great last night. I won’t detail his play as it was clear to anyone watching that he excelled, but it was nice to see Butler shine–something former second-round disappointment Darius Butler never did during his time with the Patriots.

 

  • Darius Fleming continues to pique my interest: a fifth-round pick by the 49ers in 2012, Fleming’s career has been riddled with injury. Finally healthy, Fleming looked the part last night. Admittedly, he, along with–what appeared to be–every other Patriot linebacker, struggled to make open field tackles. However, Fleming looked good against the run. With Brandon Spikes (who was the Patriots’ best run-defender in ’13) defecting to Buffalo, expect Fleming to make the final 53-man roster.
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