Garoppolo on first win: 'A lot of emotions rolling'


Garoppolo on first win: 'A lot of emotions rolling'

Jimmy Garoppolo tried to sleep on the late-night plane ride home from Arizona back home, but he couldn't. The excitement of his first win as a starting quarterback made it hard for him to wind down so he tried to get a little advanced scouting and got to work Miami, New England's Week 2 opponent.

"I tried to sleep a little bit on the flight, but I really couldn't," he told WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Show on Monday. "I'm mixed up between I'm tired [and] I got a lot of adrenaline going on in me. It's a lot of emotions rolling."

Garoppolo was able to keep those emotions in check a few hours earlier on the University of Phoenix turf, completing 24-of-33 passes for 264 yards and a touchdown in his team's 23-21 win over the Cardinals. He lost a fumble that led to an Arizona score, but otherwise, he showed poise when he needed to -- particularly on the game-winning drive. 

The third-year signal-caller hit on back-to-back third-down throws in the fourth quarter to help get Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski into field-goal range where he made the go-ahead boot. The first came on a third-and-15 play, where Garoppolo used his athleticism to scramble briefly before finding Danny Amendola deep down the field for a 32-yard pickup. 

"The line did a great job, first of all, giving me that time," Garoppolo said. "Third-and-15, you got to let your guys get down the field and Danny found the opening in the zone. It was a great job by him. He made it a pretty easy throw for me and he made a nice catch too, so it was a good play all the way around."

The next came in a more managable down and distance -- it was third-and-three at the Arizona 41 -- but it still required a well-executed throw and catch despite good coverage from the Cardinals secondary. Garoppolo threaded a pass through a tight window on a slant for running back James White that picked up seven yards and got the Patriots into an area where they had a much more comfortable shot at a field goal. 

LeGarrette Blount's 13-yard run on third-and-11 made the kick even simpler, but the pitch-and-catch between Garoppolo and White earned a nod from coach Bill Belichick after the game. 

"That was a great throw," Belichick said, "and a great catch in really tight coverage."

Garoppolo was helped in some ways by a quick-hitting game plan that both helped neutralize the Cardinals pass-rush and highlighted his strengths, but he made the throws when he needed to, including one early that allowed him to play with the lead. 

He admitted he was "amped" before the game -- he was snorting smelling salts before kickoff like a pig at a trough -- but fought off nerves to hit a 37-yard bucket-throw to Chris Hogan on New England's first drive. That pass opened up the scoring and proved that he was able to handle a big moment on a national stage in a hostile environment.

"This is awesome. I don’t even have words to express what this probably means to the whole team," Hogan said. "Coming out here, playing on the road in a tough environment against a really good team. We were able to really execute out there and just battle the entire four quarters. I am just happy for everyone in here, and Jimmy. This is huge."

Hogan wasn't the only one who felt that way. Garoppolo left the field ecstatic. Football in hand, he was nearly tackled by team chaplain Jack Easterby who gave him a bear hug as he headed back to the Patriots locker room. Eventually the game ball made it to Garoppolo's parents who were in town to see their son make his first professional start.

"They’re taking it back to Chicago with them," Garoppolo told WEEI. "We’ll see where they put it. That might be my first game ball. We didn’t do game balls in college, because at 1-AA you don’t have that many footballs. You only get about five a season, so you’ve got to make them count. So I think that was my first one, actually."

With the way he performed in one of the most difficult tests the Patriots will face all season -- not just in the first four games without Tom Brady -- it's a good bet that it won't be his last. 

Reports: Patriots among NFL teams taking a look at Manziel

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Reports: Patriots among NFL teams taking a look at Manziel

Johnny Manziel said 10 days ago, "I'd go to New England in a heartbeat," when asked about the Patriots as a potential landing spot.

That seemed like wishful thinking at the time, but they're taking a look at him...along with 12 other NFL teams, according to ESPN's Eric Williams. 

Tom Brady's current backup Brian Hoyer is, like Manziel, an ex-Cleveland Browns quarterback. Manziel would again be competing with Hoyer for the Pats' No. 2 job should New England take a chance on "Johnny Football", the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner from Texas A&M, who's been out of football the past two years because of substance abuse and emotional problems.

FOX Sports' Bruce Feldman had it at 12 teams watching Manziel work out at the University of San Diego and said the Patriots gave Manziel a weigh-in.


Patriots re-sign offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle

Patriots re-sign offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle

The Patriots have agreed to re-sign offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle, his agent Scott Casterline confirmed on Twitter.  Waddle hit unrestricted free agency when the new league year began and made a visit to the Cowboys earlier this week. In the end, though, he chose to return to the team that claimed him off of waivers at the end of the 2015 season.

Waddle, who turns 27 in July, appeared in 12 games last season for the Patriots. He was the first right tackle the Patriots turned to when Marcus Cannon suffered an ankle injury mid-season against the Chargers. He ended up playing 51 snaps against the likes of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram without allowing a sack. He then started the next three games against the Broncos, Raiders and Dolphins and held star rushers Von Miller, Khalil Mack and Cameron Wake -- all of whom rush primarily off of the offensive right -- without a sack. 

Injuries forced Waddle (380 snaps on the season) to split the right tackle position with Cameron Fleming (543 snaps), but he was the primary backup when healthy. Waddle started the Divisional Round playoff game against the Titans but suffered a knee injury and was removed for Fleming. 

Both Fleming and Waddle visited the Cowboys this week, and the fact that Waddle has re-signed with the Patriots may impact Fleming's decision moving forward. 

The Patriots went to great lengths to build tackle depth last season, and adding Waddle to the roster helps them retain some of that depth after losing their left tackle, Nate Solder, to the Giants via free agency. Waddle could be an option on the left side, but the vast majority of his work since entering the league as an undrafted rookie in 2013 has been on the right side. 

The Patriots now have Fleming, Marcus Cannon, Cole Croston, Tony Garcia and Andrew Jelks on their depth chart at tackle. Croston, Garcia and Jelks are all headed into their second years as pros. Croston remained on the 53-man roster all season -- an indication that the Patriots liked him enough not to expose him to the waiver system -- but did not see meaningful snaps. Garcia and Jelks both missed the entirety of the 2017 season on reserve lists. 

Once the Patriots lost Solder to the Giants, it seemed to be of paramount importance that the Patriots re-sign either Waddle or Fleming. Behind Cannon, there were simply too many question marks not to have one return. The Patriots could opt to draft a tackle, but this is considered an average year at that position in that there are few ready-made NFL players and several developmental types.

Before the Super Bowl last season, I asked offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia how the team was able to manage offensively with backups at right tackle for much of the season. 

"It's not like [Fleming and Waddle are] not good players," Scarnecchia said. "They are good players. Their skill set seemed to fit that position pretty well. They have the traits that we covet. And they're both really smart guys, very willing learners, and they're both driven to be good and they want to play good. And I think all those things have manifested themselves when they've been out there playing. And we've been very, very pleased with what they've done for us this year, essentially splitting that position."

Asked about the aspects of the game the Patriots worked on with both Waddle and Fleming last year, Scarnecchia said, "For us it transcends everything. Obviously run-blocking and pass-blocking. They're both good at those things. Are they great at those things? No. But they've been able to steadily improve over the last two years to the point where we put them out there and no one's worried. And it's been that way the whole season after Marcus got hurt. Yeah they've done a nice job for us."