Patriots’ Jimmy Garoppolo isn’t going to beat the Cardinals

Sep 9, 2016, 5:00 PM | Updated: Sep 10, 2016, 6:48 pm
New England Patriots' Jimmy Garoppolo (10) looks to pass against the Carolina Panthers during the s...
New England Patriots' Jimmy Garoppolo (10) looks to pass against the Carolina Panthers during the second half of a preseason NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, Aug. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)
(AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

When the Arizona Cardinals kick off their 2016 season on Sunday Night Football, it will be considered a marquee matchup against an AFC powerhouse in the New England Patriots.

But it’s not actually those Patriots.

As we all know, New England will be without star quarterback Tom Brady when they face Arizona, and another three games after that, due to his “Deflategate” suspension.

His replacement will be third-year quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who has thrown a total of 31 regular season passes.

Garoppolo saw time in the Pats’ first three preseason games, completing 36-of-54 passes (66.7%) for 406 yards (7.5 yards per attempt) with one touchdown and one lost fumble. He was sacked three times.

On the surface those number look excellent, but when you go through and watch all of his throws, they’re a mirage.

The bulk of the yardage came on a handful of plays. The Patriots got 56 on a screen pass. They amassed 17 more on a designed swing pass with blockers set up in front, and 14 more came on another screen. Take away that yardage and Garoppolo’s yards per attempt drops from 7.5 to 6.2 — the equivalent of being in the top half half of YPA last season to the third-worst in front of only Nick Foles and Ryan Mallett.

It would be stunning if the Patriots’ offense wasn’t designed around a heavy rushing attack, quick-hitting screens to wide receivers and running backs and simple, one-read timing routes.

When Garoppolo had a perfectly clean pocket, and was able to connect with his first read, he had success — his throws were accurate, on time and in rhythm.

The issues occurred when Garoppolo had to move his eyes and deal with the muck. He had an ability to evade pass rushers, but he didn’t do it smoothly. His feet became jumpy and he’d often find himself in a panic.

If the Cardinals’ run defense continues its trend of being elite and forces New England to have to deal with 3rd-and-long situations, it should be able to force Garoppolo into multiple turnovers or, at worst, an inefficient completion percentage.

The Pats’ offense with Brady was based around a quick-hitting passing game to shifty receivers and their monstrous tight end, Rob Gronkowski. But Brady’s feel for the pocket and ability to find second, third and fourth options is going to be missed significantly.

It will be key for the Cardinals’ linebackers and defensive backs to stay disciplined and tackle well as Bill Belichick tries to scheme around Garoppolo’s weaknesses when New England does throw.

Those are the two major points for them to not let Garoppolo get comfortable doing what he did well in the preseason.

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