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
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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.