Published On: Thu, Sep 22nd, 2016

New England’s Portfolio of Quarterbacks Being Tested

For years, it was almost a moot point as to who was Tom Brady’s backup quarterback in New England. Brady. Since missing pretty much all of the 2008 season with a torn ACL, Brady has played in every single game for the Patriots since then.

But with Brady’s four-game suspension to start the season – coupled with recent injuries at the position – the quarterback depth chart for the Patriots is at a point where it finally does bear watching:

Tom Brady — No matter which way you spin it, Tom Brady is still one of the best quarterbacks in the game. Watching him play the quarterback position is like witnessing Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel. His mechanics are flawless. His throws are accurate, decisive, perfectly-timed, and delivered with the perfect amount of velocity. In 2015, he led the league in touchdown passes (36), threw the second fewest interceptions (7) among the top 25 quarterbacks, and finished third in passing yards (4,770).  Make no mistake: no matter how well Jimmy Garoppolo might be playing, Brady is still the starting quarterback of the Patriots, and that job is his for as long as he wants. Once he comes back from his four game suspension, it seems almost inevitable that he’ll use the anger and frustration that’s undoubtedly been pent up over these last few weeks, and start eviscerating every opponent who plays New England.

Jimmy Garoppolo — Fans inside and outside of New England had almost no idea what to expect from Jimmy Garoppolo, when it was his time to take over the starting quarterback job for the Patriots while Brady served his suspension. Over the past two seasons, he only appeared in a total of four regular season games, either playing as “mop up duty” during lopsided games or meaningless Week 17 contests. But for the six quarters most meaningful quarters of his career in 2016, he was fantastic. Playing on the road in Arizona, against one of the best secondaries in the NFL, Garoppolo completed almost 73% of his passes, throwing for 264 yards and a touchdown. Last week, against Miami, he was carving up the Dolphins defense before leaving the game in the second quarter with a right shoulder injury. In just one half, he threw for 234 yards and three touchdowns. The Patriots have to be ecstatic with what he’s shown so far. The bigger question is whether Garoppolo is willing to wait to become the Patriots starting quarterback once Brady retires, or if he’ll start getting the urge to become the starting quarterback elsewhere in the NFL.

Jacoby Brissett — the next man up at quarterback for New England, while Brady is still out and Garoppolo is injured. Jacoby Brissett was the Patriots third round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, out of North Carolina State University. From a physical standpoint, Brissett is easily the most gifted quarterback on the Patriots roster. He’s got the rugged frame (standing 6’4 and 235lbs), big arm, and dual-threat ability to pick up big chunks of yards with his feet. But don’t expect the Patriots offense to operate with the same level of efficiency under Brissett as it did with Garoppolo. Brissett is still very raw, and needs time to really understand and master the nuances of the quarterback position.  Similar to guys like Matt Cassell, Brian Hoyer, and even Garoppolo, Brissett is more of a long-term project that the Patriots are likely trying to develop into a starter — or a prime trade asset — over the long term.

Julian Edelman — As of right now, slot receiver extraordinare Julian Edelman is actually the Patriots fourth — and “emergency” — quarterback. Edelman actually grew up playing quarterback through high school and college, and didn’t transition to wide receiver until his college career was over. In college, at Kent State University, Edelman was a three-year starter at quarterback. In 2008, during his senior year, Edelman completed 56% of his passes, and threw for 1,820 yards and 13 touchdowns.

[Analysis by NFL expert Rajan Nanavati] and [NFL artificial intelligence. ]

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