Garoppolo's former QB coach has no doubt Jimmy G is ready

Garoppolo's former QB coach has no doubt Jimmy G is ready

A friend of Jimmy Garoppolo said the news of Tom Brady standing down and accepting a four-game suspension would do nothing to alter the thought process of Garoppolo. The former Eastern Illinois star has been preparing as if he’s the starter since Day 1.

But it’s not that simple. The responsibilities of being the No. 1 guy are extensive, the weight can be prohibitive. So, can someone with limited reps, playing behind the best QB of his generation, naturally slide in and navigate the dangerous NFL waters for the Super Bowl favorite? Garoppolo’s personal quarterback coach for nearly a decade, Jeff Christensen, asks, "Why not"?

“He’s had three years to be around Tom to watch, and Jimmy is a visual learner,” said Christensen, founder of Throw It Deep, one of the top QB schools in the country. “He’s had three years to be around Coach Belichick, who’s probably one of the top five defensive minds in maybe the history of the game of football. If you are a student, which he is, I have to believe he’s going to be substantially better than he was the last two years, and I have no reason to believe he’s going to do anything but succeed.”

The maturation of Garoppolo has been evident to anyone who’s paid attention through a slew of offseason training activities, mini camps, training camps and preseason football over the past two-plus years. The confident-but-in-over-his-head rookie has shown a greater command of the offense, to the point where those in the huddle quickly and wisely accept that the kid knows exactly what he’s doing. 

“When they [the QB] know that they are right, when they open their mouths and do something, and move somebody, and you know you’re right when you do it, that’s a very secure feeling that builds on your confidence,” noted Christensen. “It’s the simple things that when they start pinballing and stacking on top of each other, all of a sudden you get a guy who is really sure and that helps out how they deliver and throw the ball. It all plays into that picture as to what a great QB looks like, if that makes sense.”

Christensen has worked extensively with Redskins starter Kirk Cousins, the QB who made the second overall pick in the 2012 draft, Robert Griffin, expendable. He’s also worked with new Houston QB Brock Osweiler and Ryan Tannehill in Miami. He says Garoppolo’s one of those players who just gets it.

“Oh yeah, his technique is so good and the ball comes out so quick, which is what we did for seven years, teaching him how that happens, that he can make certain tight window throws out of instinct,” Christensen said. “When he sees a picture, he can just shoot it, whereas a lot of guys see a picture that appears tight and they choke it down and can’t throw it because they know they can’t get it in there. Jim can do that on instinct. That’s a 12-foot window 12 yards away and I can still put that ball right in that little hole. I got Gronk there. Bang. There’s no thought process that goes into it. It’s just like a computer, and because he gets the ball out so quickly he can make a lot of third down and 7 throws that a lot of guys can’t.”

Pats fans have been able to see little snippets of that from Garoppolo, first as a rookie in a game in Kansas City, then multiple times in the preseason last year. But now that he’s the starter, presumably, for four games, teams will approach him differently, game plan to take away what he does well, explore avenues to unnerve him. The list of quarterbacks who’ve failed to deliver when the game speeds up and schemes become more complex is long. Then again, most didn’t have the support system that Garoppolo will have going into Arizona in Week 1.

“Coach Belichick knows all the possible things they are going to throw at him, so he’s going to make sure that they get him all the looks that he knows that he’ll probably get,” said Christensen. “It’ll be real comforting the first time someone tries a double-backer weak side blitz and leaves a cover zero and he’s got Gronk going down the middle and he throws a BB for a touchdown of about 42 yards and people are going to go, ‘Uh oh, maybe we shouldn’t be so aggressive with this kid’. It only takes one of those and everybody gets really hesitant to blitz a guy that can just calmly with his feet lift it and shoot it accurately in a millisecond and throw it accurately doing so.”

Ex-Patriot Ricky Jean-Francois signing with Lions

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Ex-Patriot Ricky Jean-Francois signing with Lions

Former Patriots defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois is signing with the Lions, according to Jordan Schultz of Yahoo Sports.

The 31-year-old had six tackles in six games for the Patriots in 2017. He'll reunite with ex-Patriots defensive coordinator and now Lions head coach Matt Patricia in Detroit.


What Bill Belichick's pro day tour tells us about Patriots draft strategy

What Bill Belichick's pro day tour tells us about Patriots draft strategy

It’s one of the rites of spring. This is the time of year NFL fans across America overemphasize the importance of their team’s coach or general manager popping up at a particular program’s pro day. You can set your watch to it. 

Coach X showed up at University Y so you KNOW he wants Player Z!

The pro day circuit is just one aspect of the pre-draft preparation process for NFL clubs, though. The information gleaned from stops on college campuses through March and early April is, as Bill Belichick might say, just part of the evaluation mosaic. 

The tape matters. The combine matters. Private workouts matter. Official visits matter. Claiming a meeting or an interview between a player and a club at any one of these spots will dictate a draft-day match is foolhardy. 

Still . . . it's interesting to track teams’ whereabouts in order to see if any trends develop.

Here we'll lay out where the two primary players in the Patriots front office, Belichick and Nick Caserio, have been spotted over the last couple weeks since pro days kicked off. Their itinerary may be nothing but a sliver of a view into where the team's interests lay, but we’ll take that sliver with the understanding that it is what it is.


Belichick made his seemingly annual trip to the University of Alabama to catch up with old friend Nick Saban and see some of the college game's top prospects. The Crimson Tide could have more than a dozen players drafted, and most of their top prospects reside on the defensive side of the ball. Receiver Calvin Ridley, defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick and defensive tackle Da'Ron Payne shoild be long gone by the time the Patriots pick at No. 31, but there are plenty of other talented defenders they could have a shot at. Linebacker Rashaan Evans (6-foot-3, 234) would be an interesting fit for a defense that could use an addition to its second level. Defensive end Da'Shawn Hand (6-4, 297) is intriguing because of his versatility as a base end who could rush from the inside in sub situations. Safety Ronnie Harrison (6-3, 214) also seems like a Patriots type. Even punter JK Scott could be on their radar. 


Caserio headed to Wisconsin's pro day, where linebacker Jack Cichy posted a very strong short-shuttle (4.28 seconds) and three-cone times (7.10). He's an off-the-ball type who measured in at 6-foot-2, 234 pounds and is projected by to go on Day 3. The Badgers don't have quite as many pro prospects as Alabama, but they have seven or eight who could hear their names called on draft weekend. Corner Nick Nelson (5-11, 208) and edge defender Leon Jacobs (6-3, 230) were two of Wisconsin's best players, and would’ve been worth a look from the Patriots director of player personnel. 


Belichick kept a close eye on the defensive linemen participating in NC State's pro day Monday. Bradley Chubb is expected to be the first defensive player taken in the draft so the Patriots won't have a shot at him (which Belichick admitted to Chubb following the workout), but defensive tackle BJ Hill (6-4, 315) may have been of interest. He's thought of as a mid-rounder after a very strong showing at the Senior Bowl and a solid combine. Kentavius Street (6-2, 280) is really powerful as a defensive end and could be had toward the end of the draft. Belichick also reportedly spent some time watching backs Nyheim Hines (5-8, 197) and Jaylen Samuels (5-11, 233) run routes. 

Caserio, meanwhile, kept a close eye on the workout put together by Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside (6-2, 201). Our Mike Giardi put together a piece on Woodside, who tested well at the combine and is considered to have a good football IQ, earlier this offseason. Read it. Caserio was joined at Toledo by Patriots scout Patrick Stewart, who was also present for Richmond quarterback Kyle Lauletta's pro day.


Belichick went from NC State to South Carolina where he reportedly met with tight end Hayden Hurst for the second time. Hurst (6-4, 250), a walk-on who played two years of minor-league baseball, may be the first tight end taken in this year's draft. Linebacker Skai Moore (6-2, 221) was extremely productive for the Gamecocks, leading the team in tackles all four years of his career, which Belichick clearly appreciated. Moore told reporters after his pro day work out that he met with Belichick for an hour and that Belichick told him he's a great player. Belichick and Moore also met at the combine, Moore said.

So what can we make of Belichick and Caserio's stops thus far? We’re careful not to make too much of these stops visits, but here are some quick-hitting thoughts . . .

* They appear to want more information on the draft's second (or third) tier of quarterbacks. It should come as no surprise that the Patriots won't be in the running to select passers like USC's Sam Darnold, UCLA's Josh Rosen or Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield. But the group that includes Woodside, Lauletta and others -- perhaps Washington State's Luke Falk, whose pro day will be at Utah State on Mar. 28, Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph, and Western Kentucky's Mike White -- seems to be of interest.

* Are the Patriots looking for their next playmaker at tight end? Even with Rob Gronkowski on the roster (assuming he returns in 2018) the Patriots could use another pass-catcher at this spot. Their interest in Hurst is intriguing. If they pop up at South Dakota State's pro day on Mar. 30 -- home of Dallas Goedert -- then that might be an indication they are considering a running mate and heir apparent for Gronkowski. 

* Outside of offensive tackle, off-the-ball linebacker might be the biggest need the Patriots have not addressed via trade or free agency this offseason. It would come as little surprise if they opted for a rookie (or two) who play that position in this year's draft. Evans is among the draft's most talented at that spot, but there are some questions around the league as to whether or not he'd be the traffic cop that, for instance, Jerod Mayo and Dont'a Hightower have been for the Patriots. Getting a closer look at Cichy and Moore would also seem to indicate that New England is taking a close look at a newer (smaller) breed at that spot. Belichick has long liked bigger linebackers, but as the speed of the game picks up perhaps he’ll be more open to going small(ish) here. The Patriots were represented at Viriginia Tech's pro day on Mar. 14 (home of top linebacker prospect Tremaine Edmunds) and it'll be interesting to see if they show up at Boise State (home of Leighton Vander Esch) on April 3. Belichick is reportedly headed to Georgia's pro day on Wednesday, where he'll have a chance to see athletic off-the-ball 'backer Roquan Smith and athletic edge player Lorenzo Carter. Either would immediately provide the Patriots front-seven with a shot of athleticism. 

* That Belichick has seen a boatload of talented defensive linemen at Alabama and NC State isn't a shocker. While they may not have a glaring need up front for 2018 — especially after trading for Danny Shelton and signing Adrian Clayborn — both Shelton and Malcom Brown could be elsewhere in 2019 if the Patriots don't pick up their fifth-year options. Trey Flowers is also headed into a contract year.