Patriots

Garoppolo performance a definitive retort to training camp criticism

Garoppolo performance a definitive retort to training camp criticism

FOXBORO -- As it turns out, all Jimmy Garoppolo needed was a different set of jerseys to compete against.

After nine relatively lackluster practices, the Jaguars came to town earlier this week, and Garoppolo's performances suddenly improved. He was accurate in two fully-padded joint sessions on Monday and Tuesday. On Thursday, he submitted what was perhaps his best preseason game in three-plus years as a professional.

JAGUARS 31, PATRIOTS 24

Tom Brady's backup went 22-for-28 for 235 yards and two touchdowns as his team's starter against Jacksonville. While the line was nice, the broader takeaways were that he was accurate, he took care of the football, he bounced back from some early hits, and he executed what Bill Belichick likes to call "situational football" -- particularly in a two-minute drill to finish the first half.

Running the Patriots hurry-up offense, Garoppolo went 7-for-7 and completed two well-placed passes to undrafted rookie Austin Carr. The first found Carr alone near the Jags sideline for a 20-yard gain. After two more quick-hitting strikes, Garoppolo scrambled to keep a play alive and threw off his back foot to find Carr in the back of the end zone for an acrobatic score.

Not bad for a guy who seemed to find the arms of opposing defensive backs more often than he would've liked during the early portion of camp, throwing seven interceptions over the course of several practices against his own teammates.

After going into the locker room, Garoppolo emerged still hot. He hit each of his next three passes -- including a well-thought-out pass down the seam to tight end Jacob Hollister, who was wide open because Garoppolo moved the free safety with a pump-fake -- and finished the drive with a short touchdown pitch to KJ Maye.

When Garoppolo gave way to Jacoby Brissett with about five minutes left in the third quarter, he did so with a clean performance under his belt (22-for-28, 235 yards, 2 TDs). And perhaps most impressively, he did it after taking a few big shots early on while playing behind a not-so-stout offensive line.

That he finished the game the way he did after being sacked by Yannick Ngakoue and then taking another huge hit from Ngakoue on the very next drive? Had to be encouraging for a Patriots coaching staff that had little to be encouraged about after Garoppolo's first handful of practices this summer.

Julio Jones presents Johnson Bademosi opportunity to prove he's not niche player

Julio Jones presents Johnson Bademosi opportunity to prove he's not niche player

None of us thought Johnson Bademosi would be starting this past Sunday at MetLife Stadium against the Jets because -- well -- that’s not what we perceive the 27-year-old to be. He’s a special teamer. It’s how he’s made his mark in the NFL dating back to 2012 with Cleveland. So why would that change in mid-October for a team he’s only been with for six weeks? Because Bademosi is -- and has always been -- intent on proving he’s more than a niche player.

“I see myself as a football player,” he said, “and whatever position they put me in, I’m going to try to be the best because that’s how I operate and who I am as a person. Whether that’s as a cornerback, on special teams, if they ask me to play wildcat quarterback. Whatever…”

MORE PATRIOTS:

Bill Belichick and his staff asked for Bademosi to go on the field and not come off. He played 73 defensive snaps in addition to his usual core four special teams duties. 

“I felt like I played a whole game,” Bademosi joked, before saying, “I love playing football so I’m going to go out there and empty myself.”

He did just that, getting targeted only two times in the 24-17 win over the Jets. It was hoped that Bademosi would return to his normal specialist role, but with Stephon Gilmore still out with a concussion, it now seems more and more likely that the sixth year pro will have to be an ironman again Sunday night in primetime against the Falcons. Historically, the Pats have defended bigger receivers. That means Bademosi may be responsible for one of the most dangerous players in the league, Julio Jones.

“He’s an amazing player," he said. “We all know what he’s capable of. As a defense, we have to be prepared for him.”

The Pats were on Super Bowl Sunday and Jones still made a couple of ridiculous plays with either Logan Ryan or Eric Rowe in coverage with safety help over the top.

“He’s fast. He’s physical. He can jump. He can run. He’s smart. He’s everything you want in a wide receiver,” said Bademosi without blinking an eye. That’s the kind of confidence you want from a player at that position and facing this type of challenge. 

“You gotta believe in yourself,” he said “ I’m confident in my abilities. I work hard and trust my preparation.”

Being an elite athlete certainly helps. Bademosi was a scholarship football player at Stanford -- “some guy named Jim Harbaugh called” -- before ending up in the NFL. But it’s Bademosi’s willingness to go all in in the film room that impressed safety Devin McCourty. 

“…I think, honestly, the most work he did was probably with just himself jumping into the film, watching more stuff to exactly see,” said McCourty Thursday. “You know, when you’re a backup more, you’re kind of trying to see everything because you don’t know what role you might be thrust upon once you’re in the game. But, I think once he knew he was starting, it was kind of like, ‘Alright, let me focus in on this.’ I thought he did an awesome job of just being ready and competing.”

Bademosi will have to compete his ass off Sunday night, even against what has been to this point a physically compromised Jones. Based on what he did several days ago, there’s no reason to believe the Pats cornerback won’t bring everything he has, trying to prove again that he’s more than just a special teams whiz.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE