W2W4: New England Patriots at Arizona Cardinals

New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is ready for the Arizona Cardinals. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is ready for the Arizona Cardinals. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports /
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New England Patriots
New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo needs to be on the top of his game Sunday night. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports /

New England Passing Offense vs Arizona Pass Defense

The biggest change in New England on offense will be the lack of number twelve behind center. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo steps in to fill-in for Tom Brady while Brady serves his ridiculous “Deflategate” suspension. Garoppolo has never started a game in the NFL and has just 31 regular season pass attempts over two seasons.

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Garoppolo will have a huge disadvantage if left tackle Nate Solder (questionable – hamstring injury — did not travel on team charter to Arizona on Friday) is not back to protect his blindside. Solder was injured last season and seemed to tweak his hamstring in the final preseason game. If he does not play the team will likely have either Cameron Fleming or LaAdrian Waddle starting at left tackle (UPDATE: Solder has been ruled out).  

The other tackle position will likely be manned by Marcus Cannon while veteran Sebastian Vollmer is on the PUP List with a knee/hip injury. Cannon struggled at the end of last season playing on a broken toe that robbed his agility and ability to push off and drive. Cannon has been more comfortable on the right side rather than the left side and will likely stay on the right side if Solder does not play

The Cardinals counter with a familiar face in the pass rush with defensive end/linebacker Chandler Jones. Jones will be counted on to generate pass rush for Arizona after the Patriots traded him there this offseason. Jones struggles against better tackles and was notorious for disappearing in the playoffs.

He will be looking to get some payback against his former team and will have rookie Robert Nkemdiche around to help with the pass rush–if Nkemdiche can get on the field. He is currently buried behind Rodney Gunter, Frostee Rucker and Josh Mauro on the depth chart. Calais Campbell is one of the few linemen in Arizona capable of generating consistent pressure on the quarterback.

Arizona brings pressure via the blitz and with different players as only one player had more than five sacks last season (the departed to Atlanta Dwight Freeney). To counter the blitz in the passing game the Patriots need to involve tight ends Rob Gronkowski (questionable – hamstring injury — did not travel on team charter to Arizona on Friday) and Martellus Bennett and receiving running back James White on quick dump-off routes in space and let them overpower or make a defender miss and grab chunks of yardage.

Having two tight-ends and White on the field gives Garoppolo safe,short-passing options that can make Arizona pay for blitzing. The loss of Gronkowski for the game would change the entire offense (UPDATE: Gronkowski has been ruled out). No team blitzed more than the Cardinals last season and Garoppolo has to get the ball into the hands of his playmakers and let them make big plays in order to get the offense down the field and into the end zone.

The Cardinals will try to match-up with Bennett and White with athletic safety Deone Bucannon and the inside linebackers. Do not be surprised to see Tyrann Mathieu move from covering Julian Edelman in the slot and help out with Bennett or shadow White if they have success early.

Both Bucannon and Mathieu have freakish athleticism and surprising strength to wrap-up and make tackles and safety DJ Swearinger will also be involved in coverage at times as well. If Garoppolo can get the ball to Bennett and White in the screen game early on, it should open things up for the other New England pass catchers.

With rookie wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell on the injury report still as he recovers from his elbow injury, it is up to the offseason surgery trio of Julian Edelman (foot), Danny Amendola (knee and ankle) and Chris Hogan (shoulder) to shoulder the load. Hogan will likely see a lot of superstar cornerback Patrick Peterson outside the numbers.

If the Patriots can force Tyrann Mathieu having to help Deone Bucannon in keeping up with the tight end or running back, it could leave rookie cornerback Brandon Williams and recently acquired from Kansas City backup cornerback Marcus Cooper chasing Amendola and Edelman as young veteran Justin Bethel may not be able to play due to injury.

For the Patriots, Gronkowski is at an advantage against any defense and with Bennett on the field it can only help prevent double and triple coverage. He and Solder and Cooper not playing would limit the Patriots’ explosiveness and protection. The lack of depth at cornerback hurts Arizona as Peterson cannot cover everyone.

If Garoppolo stays away from him he should find options in good match-ups in the passing game. A few screens to White to slow the pass rush would help the young quarterback in his first career start and slow down the aggressive blitzes dialed up by the Cardinals.


Next: New England Rushing Offense vs Arizona Rush Defense