FOXBOROUGH — The only thing Jimmy Garoppolo did consistently during organized team activities was play inconsistently. Once the opening whistle sounded for the New England Patriots’ mandatory minicamp on Tuesday, Garoppolo found consistency and had his best practice in a Patriots uniform.
Things seem to be coming along for the rookie, but he understands there is still much progress to be made before he is ready to play in the NFL, and consistency is one area he has to improve.
“Yeah, I mean, it’s a process. That’s for sure,” he said on Tuesday after practice. “It’s one of those things you’ve got to take day by day. Each day is different and you have to be consistently good, not occasionally great. You have to come out here and do your best every single day and let the coaches see what you can do.”
His consistency was much sharper on Tuesday than it had been during OTAs. The rookie second-round pick went 17-of-25 (unofficially) during 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 work. There were some rough patches, including one sequence that saw him hold onto the ball too long and take a (non-contact) sack, and another in which he fumbled the quarterback-center snap exchange.
There was also the highlight of his Patriots career, still in its infancy. Garoppolo dropped back and threw a deep strike to wide receiver Jeremy Johnson, streaking down the right sideline behind the secondary.
It was the best pass we’ve seen from Garoppolo yet.
“It was a good read,” Garoppolo said of the play. “It was just one of those things, you see the safeties rotate. You get your eyes in the right place. You have to have efficient eyes. I did that on that play.”
That’s one example of “occasionally great,” but Garoppolo was still “consistently good” throughout the remainder of practice, hitting a variety of throws to a number of receivers.
One of Garoppolo’s most difficult transitions from the collegiate level to the NFL level will be how he fits the ball into tight spots, and how he responds while under pressure. He struggled in the former during OTAs, and in the latter during the first portion of Tuesday’s practice, but improved in both areas over the course of the day.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick wouldn’t speak in specifics about Garoppolo’s improvement, only noting that all the rookies have a long way to go.
“Again, like all these guys, they’re learning what to do,” he said on Tuesday before practice. “They’ve got a long way to go, they’re making progress. He’s improved but he has a long way to go.”
That’s not news to Garoppolo, who continues to deal with the transition from Eastern Illinois to New England — a transition that involves a raising of the bar, in terms of the competition, the playbook, even practice. The biggest transition, however, has been the speed of practice.
“Not really surprised, but it’s very fast,” Garoppolo said. “I kind of expected that. There is a transition from the college to the NFL game. It’s something you have to get use to and great athletes do.
“It’s very fast, but you know, that’s what coach Belichick wants us to be. He wants us to have great tempo in and out of the huddle [and] moving from station to station. I think we did a good job of that today.”
One might think that a rookie, with no career NFL starts to his name, might have a hard time commanding a huddle with veterans, some of whom have been studying the offense for years. There’s no time for trepidation in the life of an NFL quarterback.
“The guys have done a great job of helping me out with that,” Garoppolo said of walking the line between being a rookie and getting everyone lined up as the quarterback. “Older guys, younger guys, it’s a great group of guys in there so it’s not very hard. But you’re the quarterback. That’s what you’re expected to do. And that’s what I go out there and do.
“[As] the quarterback, you’re the coach on the field. You’re expected to know everything and get people in the right spot and take command. That’s what I’m trying to do.”
It seems there’s also no time for time off. Garoppolo noted that his day does not end when practice is over, with film sessions and other activities waiting for him on the other side of the whistle.
“It’s not even close to being over.”