Patriots

Taking a closer look at Garoppolo's three best throws vs. the Jaguars

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Taking a closer look at Garoppolo's three best throws vs. the Jaguars

Jimmy Garoppolo had the kind of preseason game on Thursday that put to bed any mini-panic attacks in New England concerning his mechanics and/or his mental state.

After several up-and-down training camp practices, he went 22-for-28 for 235 yards and two scores against the Jaguars. And while that line looks nice, it doesn't tell the full story of what Garoppolo did well in his two-plus quarters of work. 

It wasn't perfect. There was a missed third-down throw over the middle to Jacob Hollister. There was a dump-off to Dion Lewis that came out of Garoppolo's hand awkwardly and landed incomplete. There was a sack on a third-and-one play that perhaps could have been avoided.

But otherwise, Garoppolo was clean across the board. He was generally accurate on the short-area screen passes and quick-hitters that kept drives moving. His release was as snappy as ever. He completed throws on the run. He ran an immaculate two-minute drill. He took chances down the field but did so judiciously. 

Suffice it to say, there was plenty of good to dig into from his performance, but let's take a few moments to break down his three best throws of the night. 

SECOND QUARTER 00:42

FIRST AND 10, JACKSONVILLE 47-YARD LINE

Garoppolo completed each of his first three passes after the Patriots took possession with 1:52 remaining in the first half, but they were still out of field goal range with under a minute remaining.

Coming out of a timeout, Josh McDaniels called for 11-personnel, using Brandon Bolden as the back and Jacob Hollister as the tight end tight to the formation. 

With Bolden chipping talented Jags pass-rusher Dante Fowler off the left edge, Garoppolo had plenty of time in the pocket. It appeared as though he was looking for KJ Maye over the middle of the field, but with Maye blanketed, he worked his way over to Austin Carr, who was running a deep comeback, mirroring Devin Lucien's route on the opposite side of the field. 

With time to step into the throw against Jacksonville's four-man rush, Garoppolo threw a perfect strike to Carr for a 20-yard gain. 

Good decision. Strong, accurate throw. One of his best of the night.

SECOND QUARTER 00:20

THIRD AND 3, JACKSONVILLE 3-YARD LINE

The Patriots deployed their 11-personnel once again as they faced a third-and-goal situation, also known as a "four-point play." Even though the game was an exhibition, these are the kinds of scenarios the Patriots often drill in practice because they are the types of plays that can turn football games. 

Dion Lewis was flexed out wide when the Patriots came to the line, but he motioned back to the backfield, leaving Lucien as the lone receiver to the left, Carr as the receiver wide right and Maye in the slot with Hollister alongside. 

Garoppolo's first look was to Hollister, who ran a little stop route right at the goal line. The tight end was surrounded. Next, Garoppolo peeked in the direction of Maye, who also posted up at the goal line, and Carr. Carr ran a longer-developing route breaking along the end line back toward the middle of the field. Garoppolo didn't have time to stick around and make the throw as Fowler flushed him from the pocket while working on left tackle LaAdrian Waddle. 

As Garoppolo rolled to his left, he set his feet and looked back toward Maye and Hollister. By now, Hollister had floated from his spot in the middle to the left side of the end zone. Both were covered. 

At this point, Garoppolo didn't have time to reset again, but he spotted what he thought was an opening to Carr, who continued his route along the back end line toward the right corner of the end zone. Off his back foot, Garoppolo flicked a pass to Carr, who made an acrobatic touchdown catch. 

Not how a quarterback coach would draw it up, maybe, but the results were there. 

Athleticism to extend the play. An ability to make quick decisions with pressure bearing down on him. A quick release. Good placement, where either his receiver would catch it or it would sail out of bounds. That all added up to what was perhaps the definitive Garoppolo highlight from the night. 

THIRD QUARTER 14:21

FIRST AND 10, NEW ENGLAND 43-YARD LINE

Garoppolo went seven-for-seven during the two-minute drill to finish the first half and he remained hot when he came out for the second. 

With their 12-personnel on the field, with Hollister and Sam Cotton helping to make up a tight two-by-two formation, the Patriots set up to take a down-the-field shot.

Both Carr and Lucien ran out-and-ups on opposite sidelines while Cotton ran a quick out to the right and Hollister broke straight down the left seam. 

To help sell Carr's out-and-up, Garoppolo gave a subtle pump-fake as Carr hit the "out" portion of the route. The Jags corners didn't bite so Carr wasn't open . . . but their post safety did.  

That meant that when Garoppolo worked through his progression and reset his feet he found Hollister wide open.

By the time undrafted rookie safety Jarrod Harper had recovered to make a shoestring tackle on Hollister, the Patriots had a 38-yard gain. 

Poise in the pocket. Good footwork. Balance. A crafty fake. An on-point strike deep down the middle of the field. It wasn't Garoppolo's toughest throw, but that's partly because he made it easy on himself. Even against an overmatched rookie centerfielder, he'll take it.

QUICK SLANTS PODCAST: Belichick ignoring noise? Or trying to change the narrative?

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QUICK SLANTS PODCAST: Belichick ignoring noise? Or trying to change the narrative?

3:00 Why has Bill Belichick been so surprisingly positive of his team’s performance in tight wins?

6:30 Phil Perry breaks down what grades he gave the Patriots on his report card following the win over the Jets

15:00 Reaction to the Austin-Seferian Jenkins overturned touchdown, and what changes need to be made in the NFL replay system. 

23:00 Why was Patriots offensive line much more effective against Jets?

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

25:00 Patriots-Falcons preview, how did Falcons blow a 17 point lead to the Dolphins?

What's missing from Patriots? A defense that has a clue

What's missing from Patriots? A defense that has a clue

FOXBORO - We’re not quite at the point of fire and brimstone coming down from the skies, or 40 years of darkness, or even dogs and cats living together, but this Patriots season isn’t headed down the right path, despite a 4-2 record and the top spot in the AFC East. 

There are several elements that appear missing at this juncture - chief among them a defense that actually has a clue. Please don’t celebrate holding the Jets to 17 points - I’m looking at you, Dont’a Hightower. Josh McCown threw for just 194 yards against the Cleveland freakin’ Browns for goodness sake, but he got you for 354 and two scores?! Even the 2009 Patriots defense is offended by that.

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We’d be foolish to think the Pats can’t get this leaky unit fixed for reasons so obvious I won’t state them in this space so as not to waste my time or yours. We also know - long before Bill Belichick’s 6 1/2-minute explanation on the Monday conference call - that it's not supposed to be perfect right now. Actually, it’ll never be perfect. That’s not how this game works. 

Yet week after week, we see uncommon breakdowns and one defender looking at the next as if to say, “I thought you had him?” or more to the point, “what the hell were you doing?” It started Sunday at MetLife on the third play of the game. Malcolm Butler, playing 10 yards off Robby Anderson, looking as if he’s never played the position before, inexplicably turning his back on Anderson even though the wide receiver makes no real move to the post. That results in just about the easiest completion of McCown’s life, a 23-yarder on third-and-10. 

On the same series, on another third-and-long, the Pats rushed four and dropped seven into coverage. Defensive end Cassius Marsh continued his season-long trend of rushing so far upfield he ended up in Hoboken. With Deatrich Wise ridden outside on the opposite edge, McCown wisely stepped up and found prime real estate with New York City views. He wanted to throw and could have when the Pats fouled up a crossing route from the backside of the play. But with that much room to roam, McCown took off, scooting for a quick 16 yards and another first down.

Fittingly, that drive ended with a Jets touchdown on yet another dumb play, this one courtesy of Mr. Hit or Miss, Elandon Roberts. Channeling his inner Brandon Spikes, the second-year pro blew off his key and responsibility on third-and-goal from the 1, charging hard to the line. This, despite one of the most feeble play-action fakes you’ll see. In fact, I’m not even sure it was a real play-action fake. Anyway, score it as a touchdown to Austin Seferian-Jenkins and an indictment on David Harris, who apparently can’t vault past the erratic Roberts on the depth chart.

Similar to the week prior in Tampa, the Pats found better footing after that. They forced three straight three-and-outs in the second quarter and then helped turn the game when Butler intercepted an ill-advised throw by McCown just prior to the half. They got another turnover to start the third, with Butler coming off the edge on fourth-and-1 and forcing McCown into panic mode. The veteran QB fired an off-target throw to - get this - a wide open receiver who went uncovered on a drag route and Devin McCourty was gifted an interception.

But this group frowns on prosperity. It took a little-seen rule to prevent a Seferian-Jenkins touchdown in the fourth, and on the game’s final drive, the Pats allowed a 32-yard completion on fourth-and-12. Then, on what turned out to be the Jets final play, the Pats let Tavaris Cadet leak out of the backfield and run unchecked 20 yards down the field. Had McCown not soiled himself again, Gang Green would have had a first down and at least one crack at the end zone. Then, who knows what the heck happens?

It was just a season ago that the Patriots led the entire NFL in scoring defense. If you’ll recall, we spent a better part of the year wondering if that defense was championship quality. Turns out they were. Right now, we’re wondering once again if this defense is of that ilk, but through an entirely different prism. It’s on the players and staff to change the current outlook, or those cats and dogs will have to figure out their shared space.