Jimmy Garoppolo: Next QB Up?

Apparently Tom Brady is sitting out four games for reasons that still elude some. So what will the New England Patriots find they have in Jimmy Garoppolo? Dan Syed examines the quarterback’s first 2016 preseason start.

Before you read this analysis on Jimmy Garoppolo’s performance from the first game of the pre-season, remember to take a deep breath. For all the criticisms, remember Rob Gronkowski, Dion Lewis, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan, and Sebastian Vollmer did not play. For all the success, remember defenses largely play basic coverage in the pre-season.

With that said, there are certain traits and attributes that are essential for successful quarterback play in the NFL, and these are things we can look for even in preseason games. So let’s take a look at how Garoppolo fared with respect to a few of these traits.

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Accuracy

Garoppolo struggled early with his accuracy, with the primary issue being underthrowing receivers on both fade balls and out cuts. His first throw is a 7-yard out completed to Martellus Bennett. However, the throw is woefully behind Bennett; the tight end has to turn back just to make the catch. The ball should be out in front of Bennett, who would have plenty of room to gain yards after the catch with an accurate throw.

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Next, Garoppolo underthrows a fade to Bennett. Bennett is matched up one-on-one with a smaller cornerback; this throw should be higher and farther outside to make it a jump ball situation for the 6’6” tight end.

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On his very next throw, Garoppolo is late and behind on an out throw, allowing Saints linebacker Dannell Ellerbe to almost come up with an interception.

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Later in the game, Garoppolo bounces back and makes an excellent throw to rookie Malcolm Mitchell.

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Here, ball placement is high and to the outside, where only Mitchell can make the catch.

Garoppolo’s ball placement was also solid in the short timing throws seen below:

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[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Progression

The strongest facet to Garoppolo’s play in this first preseason game was working through progressions. Young quarterbacks in the NFL sometimes fall into the bad habit of “locking eyes” onto only one receiver and not reacting quickly enough when that option isn’t open. It is apparent that Garoppolo goes through his progressions, although he could probably do so more quickly. So while his throws were not always accurate, he did seem to make good decisions as to which receiver to throw the ball.

Below are several examples where Garoppolo starts his read on one receiver and moves through his progression to find another open:

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[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Pocket Presence

Pocket presence or awareness should not be confused with mobility; while Garoppolo’s mobility is certainly better than Brady’s at this point in his career, Garoppolo’s pocket presence will need to improve. On a 3rd down and 5 from his own 35, Garoppolo has a chance to climb the pocket to buy himself time. Instead of stepping up between the left guard and tackle, he stays on his spot and takes an unnecessary sack.

In the NFL, a quarterback must be able to feel the rush coming, keep his eyes downfield, and extend a play. Overall, this sack is just as much on Garoppolo as the offensive line.

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[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Mobility

Garoppolo showed mobility on one occasion, picking up a first down on 4th and 2. Here, he escapes from the grasp of a pass rusher and is able to make a play with his legs.

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[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Decision Making

One of Tom Brady’s greatest skills is his ability to avoid negative and unnecessarily risky plays. An incompletion is always better than a sack, and sometimes an incompletion is the best play available. In the clip below, Garoppolo escapes the initial pressure and has a chance to throw the ball away to make it 2nd and 10. Instead, he tries to make something out of nothing and gets sacked for a loss of 14, setting up 2nd and 24, a situation that nearly always results in a punt and lost field position.

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Another example of poor decision-making occurs on this play where Garoppolo buys himself some extra time by escaping the pocket. He then commits the cardinal sin of “throwing it back across the middle late” – this type of throw almost always either results in an incompletion, interception, or a wide receiver taking a bone crunching hit. Lucky for him, it falls harmlessly to the turf this time.

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Again, sometimes the best play available is an incompletion.

Follow Dan on Twitter @syedschemes

Daniel Syed is a lawyer and coach, who enjoys breaking down X’s and O’s. He has written about passing concepts for the ITP Glossary, Hail Mary attempts, and making adjustments at the line.

All video and images courtesy NFL Game Pass.

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