It is interesting to see that rookie Jimmy Garoppolo has been named the Patriots starting quarterback for their final preseason game, Thursday at the New York Giants. ESPN’s Adam Schefter also noted that Garoppolo is expected to play most of the game.
What is equally interesting is that the Patriots, known for keeping everything close to the vest, would release this information three days before the game.
What does it all mean for Ryan Mallett and the competition to be Tom Brady’s backup?
Maybe everything. Maybe nothing.
It could mean that the Patriot are letting the rest of the NFL – especially the St. Louis Rams, who lost starter Sam Bradford for the season the other night – that Mallett is available after being Brady’s back-up the last two years.
It could mean that Garoppolo has seized control of the back-up spot.
Garoppolo, the Patriots second-round pick out of Eastern Illinois, has played well in the preseason games after struggling early in training camp. He has completed 24 of 37 passes for 334 yards and four touchdowns, with a quarterback rating of 129.8.
Mallett, the Patriots third-round pick out of Arkansas in 2011, has completed 14 of 26 passes for 161 yards and one touchdown, with a rating of 85.6. He played just one series in the Patriots last preseason game against Carolina.
Garoppolo told reporters Monday that he was “excited about (the start). It’s a good opportunity to get out there and get some quality reps. It’s going to be fun.”
Everyone expected Garoppolo to be the third quarterback this year, learning the game from both Brady and Mallett. But his stellar preseason may have them thinking that he’s ready to be the full-time back-up.
Then again, this may also just be a way of the Patriots seeing just how far Garoppolo has come. If he doesn’t fare well against the Giants, Mallett’s value as Brady’s back-up increases greatly.
– A couple of other surprises from the Patriots:
On Monday they announced that they had cut veteran defensive linemen Tommy Kelly and Will Smith and linebacker James Anderson, along with rookie TE Justin Jones.
Kelly, coming back from a knee injury that knocked him out for the final 11 games of the 2013 season, was a surprise cut. But it shows how much faith the Patriots have in their younger defensive linemen. Smith, a former sackmaster for the New Orleans Saints, hadn’t played well in the preseason.
Anderson had been expected to make the team. But his release once again illustrates New England’s faith in their young linebackers.
The Patriots have to cut their roster down to 75 players by Tuesday.