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.