2016 Season Blog.

Pat Vs Arizona.

7 Things For Sunday Night.


Greetings Pats Fans,

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Part I.


1. Pats Offense- With the defense playing so well this Preseason, this game seems all about the offense to me, and on the field that responsibility falls onto the quarterback. "That comes with the quarterback job, since I started playing quarterback. You never want to be too high, too low. You always want to be right in the middle. Your teammates are always looking at you. So if you react in a bad way, they're going to see that and they'll react to that. Just that calm, cool and collected mindset is the way I'm approaching it." He has to be calm, cool, and collected tonight.

Arizona has the top defense of all four teams we will face with Jimmy-G at QB. "We're ready for Arizona," Jimmy-G said. "We'll be ready for them on Sunday. It's just preparing throughout the whole week. We have to have a good week of practice, take care of the little things, the little details, and the rest will take care of itself." Plus, home field advantage is really about the travel and the crowd noise disrupting the Away teams offense. 

The Cards have the best defense, last season, of the four teams Garoppolo will face (though Houston might have an argument). "Defensively this is a team that turns the ball over very well," BB said. "They have a good pass rush, a lot of big guys up front. They're hard to block. [Deone] Bucannon, [Tyrann] Mathieu, Peterson are all good ball-disruption players. They cause fumbles, intercept passes, sack the quarterback. They're very fast. The team has good speed. It's hard to outrun these guys. They track everybody down. They had a great year last year going to the NFC Championship Game. They're just very consistent in their ability to score points, turn the ball over, and make a lot of productive plays in all three phases of the game. They've had great success playing at home in their stadium. It'll be a big challenge for us down there opening on the road against this quality of a football team and the way they play there." This is also the only game that is on the road for Jimmy-G.

Jimmy-G is going to be facing one of the top five blitzing teams on the road. "They bring five rushers out of their base defense a good percentage of the time," BB said. "I wouldn't say that they are a heavy sub-blitzing team or they haven't been. They do it. There are other teams that are going to give us different blitz packages, I'd say, a lot more complex than what Arizona has shown. Arizona does what they do. They're very successful in what they do defensively.

"They turn the ball over really more than any team. They're very good upfront and they have a lot of playmakers in the secondary and they have a lot of team speed when you get into their linebackers, especially their off-the-ball linebackers like Bucannon. He's really like another [DB]. A lot of times their base is like nickel, and their nickel is kind of like dime. So they have a lot of team speed on the field. They bring five out of their base defense a decent amount of time. I wouldn't say this is the most exotic blitz team we'll ever see though. I just wouldn't characterize it that way." 

Bucannon was a college Safety that they play at LB. Which gives them a little more speed and coverage in their base defense and Nickel. But Buchanan is also great against the run. He is small, but so quick and fast that he makes the Big Uglies miss inside.

Buchanan is not the only guy with speed on this defense by a long shot, and they use that speed to create turnovers. "There are a lot of things they do well across the board," Josh McDaniel said. "They're very well coached. They have a lot of good players at all levels of the defense. They create a lot of turnovers. I think they were: second in the league last year in terms of turnovers, scored 140 points off turnovers, and scored many times on defense themselves once they turned the ball over.

"Like every game, taking care of the football is going to be important, and they do an exceptional job of putting you in position to try to take the ball away. Whether that be creating fumbles, creating interceptions through pressuring the quarterback. They have a lot of good cover players and a lot of good rushers. It's a defense that likes to pressure. They're going to force you to handle the blitz throughout the game: on all three downs, in the red zone, and in all the critical situations.

"So you're going to have to be able to block pressure or to handle it in some way so that you can avoid negative plays and negative situations and keep them off the quarterback. They obviously have a lot of exceptional players: Mathieu, Peterson, Bucannon, Chandler Jones, [Calais] Campbell, [Corey] Peters. They've got a whole bunch of them." This is going to be Garoppolo's biggest test of the season.

The offensive line has to great in this game, with Solder and Vollmer out. The Cards are a 3-4 team. They will bring speed outside, like Mr. Jones, and they will test those edges. Fleming and Waddle have to play above their heads for the Pats to win. Like the Pats, the Cards will also blitz right up the gut with the ILBs and Buchanan. They have some big 3-4 D-linemen who can get up field. Frostee Rucker and Campbell can both get up field in the rush. The rest of their 5-Techs are pretty much run stuffers only, but they will certainly try to hit the QB.

So coach McDaniels has to call a great game for Garoppolo. "Just knowing what you need to do on each play and each series and what you're trying to accomplish, and then effectively taking care of your job and the responsibilities that apply to you," McDaniels said. "I think when we talk about playing fast, more than anything we're talking about being sure of what you're doing. That comes from repetition and preparation. Whatever the plan is that we're going to have going into each week, hopefully we do a good job of communicating those responsibilities and our expectations of how we want them done, and the players will study as hard as they possibly can and go out there and practice well and gain confidence through our repetitions in practice.

"Then when you get in the game, it's really just about when you hear the play called or when you call the play, feeling good about that call because you executed in practice, and you have an opportunity now to go out there and execute it under pressure. There's nothing that feels better, I would imagine to anybody, then being able to go out and do something that you've already done and that you feel confident in doing. Hopefully, that's what we'll arrive at. That's what our goal is each week, and it will start this Sunday with Arizona." We now know who is playing and who is out.

Gronk is out, and that is another big adjustment the offense is going to have to make. "Each one of them is a little different," McDaniels said when asked about the TE. "We try to put them out there and use them in the positions and the areas of the game that they really can excel in. [Were they] have some success, and help our team move the ball and score points. All of them have done different things whether it be in the running game, passing game, pass protection. There are some contributors certainly from that group in the kicking game, so we're excited about that group in general. They've all worked hard to try to help our team in a number of different ways in a number of different roles and we're looking forward to moving into the season with them." The best news is that it looked like Bennett and Jimmy-G had some nice chemistry in the Preseason. 

It is not a good time to be thinking about adjustments. Because this is a defense that helped lead the Cards to the NFC Champ game, and they are going to be coming after Jimmy-G. "They are all big-play type of players, and defensively this is a team that turns the ball over very well. They have a good pass rush, a lot of big guys up front," BB said. "They're hard to block. Bucannon, Mathieu, Peterson are all good ball-disruption players. They cause fumbles, intercept passes, sack the quarterback. They're very fast. The team has good speed. It's hard to outrun these guys. They track everybody down. They had a great year last year going to the NFC Championship Game." They have playmakers all over that defense, and two of the best in the game in Peterson and Mathieu.

Mathieu has that great knack for making plays on the ball. And they move him into a couple of spots where he gets his hands on the ball. "He plays safety in their base defense, and he plays slot in their nickel," BB said. "Usually they bring Swearinger in or it could be [Marqui] Christian. But whoever it ends up being, whoever that third safety is, Mathieu goes to the nickel corner. And when they're in their 3-4 defense, which they're in a lot, then he plays free safety. But it's like having three corners on the field, obviously. I wouldn't say he plays everywhere. I'd say he plays those two spots."

Garoppolo has to be on the look out for him in the slot on 3rd downs. "[Mathieu is] a very productive player, very athletic, loves football, competes hard, and he's a tough kid," BB said. "He'll strike you for his size. He's not a big, imposing player but he plays with good physicality and toughness. He likes football. Yeah, he was impressive." If Garoppolo can be efficient and not turn the ball over the Pats can win this game.

2. Garoppolo- So it all comes down to Jimmy-G on offense. The great wildcard. He is still the mystery man, because this is technically his first start in the NFL (Preseason starts just don't count). "There's really nothing that can give you the experience of playing in a regular season game other than playing in them," McDaniels said. "Jimmy has done a great job of working hard for the two and a half years that he's been there and studying and improving every year in our system and with what he can do in it. He's going to prepare hard this week and be ready to go in the game." He has to throw quicker and use his feet better for the Pats to win this game, and we just don't know if he can do that.

We really don't now what he is going to do. "Jimmy is a part of the team and we're going to ask all of our guys to do certain things that we're going to need to get done to win the game," McDaniels said. "Whatever that group of things is at the quarterback position, we're going to be ready to do those things. Everybody's going to play a part in that. The burden is not going to fall on another person. Jimmy is excited to have this opportunity. He has worked extremely hard and prepared hard for it. And again, we're going to look to prepare as hard as we can this week and then get better with each one of these opportunities." We saw enough from him in the Preseason to be a little comfortable.

The only thing we know for sure is that he ain't Brady. "I think Jimmy has got to be himself," McDaniels said. "We've always tried to prepare as hard as we could. Jimmy has always worked as hard as he could to try to be ready for each practice and each game. I think that's what Jimmy's job is: to work hard, be ready to go, know what he's being asked to do this week, and to be himself. We have a lot of different personalities, a lot of different guys on our football team and in our offense. Each guy is different in the leadership, emotion and poise that they show and that they can help the team with. So I would ask that all of them do that, just be themselves. We don't need anybody to be somebody else. We certainly don't need our guys to be thinking about trying to do anything that's really not something they're comfortable doing. Jimmy is going to work hard this week to do what we're asking Jimmy to do, and we're not going to ask any more than that." He has to find a different way in this offense than Brady.

He has spent the past two plus years of his life copying everything that Brady has done. Now he has to take it to his own place. It is not an easy thing to do, but he has to find his own way. He was a much better scrambler in college and in his first two seasons than he was this Preseason. He needs to get some of that back this week, and not just try to be a Brady-bot.

This is his opportunity to find his own way within the offense. "Each opportunity is an opportunity to improve. Every practice," McDaniels said. "I know that sounds cliché, but every practice we learn something that may help us get better in a number of ways. Every game rep that we take helps us because it's just more experience doing things that we need to do well in our sport.

"Jimmy has been steady. We're not going to get too high or too low based on one day, one play or one series or one quarter of football. I think that's part of playing in this league and trying to do a good job; maintaining a steady state of mind and understanding that there are a lot of good players on every team we play and there are a lot of good coaches on the other teams too.

"They're going to make some plays and our job is to go out there and try to do the best we can on every snap, and hopefully we make more plays at the end of each game than they do. I think staying grounded and balanced and focusing on moving forward: to the next series, the next game, the next quarter. Whatever it may be? And trying to do the best with each opportunity, take each play as its own, and make the most of it when we get our chances." He will be doing this without Nate Solder at his back.

3. To Be or Not To Be...- I don't think that the Pats can win without Vollmer and Solder. I do like Fleming at OLT. But there is a gigantic difference between playing Kerry Winn in the Preseason, and going against: Mr. Jones, on the road, in Arizona, and in the regular Season. Waddle or Fleming is going to have to go out on that edge and fight Mr. Jones to a standstill.

Gronk, ex-Cards bust at OG Cooper, and Nate "friggin'" Solder are all out of this game. This is a terrible development for the offense. The young Jimmy-G is going into his first Regular Season start without his two most important players. With Brady out, Gronk is the best player on the team. And Solder is the best blindside protector on the Pats.

The Pats have three excellent tight ends active for this game. Bennett is a legit starting tight end. AJ Derby is a second year guy who looked like he is developing into a legit starting H-back. He can get open and catch the ball through contact. Harbor is the steady special teams 3rd TE, who blocks well. He can catch some short passes and fall down. That is a nice group.

But with Gronk, it is the best group in the NFL. Jimmy-G needs help from something or someone that is the best in the NFL, against the Cards defense, on the road. So he has to be better than he was in the preseason. The game has to slow for him. "I feel like it has, especially since my rookie year and last year," Jimmy-G said. "The biggest part of that is the mental part. Once you know the offense, you know what you're looking for on defense and everything like that, you can mentally break it down to where you almost know where you're going with the ball. It's comforting feeling. Not that it's moving in slow motion, but it's moving a lot slower than what it was." This crippled offense is going to need him to be great on Sunday Night.

We don't know if he can do that yet. "I think part of that is going back to the game slowing down for you," Jimmy-G said. "As the game slows down, you're able to play faster. You know what you want to do with the ball, whatever it may be. It's a comforting feeling. When you know what defense to expect, when you know what the play is, and everything like that. It makes it that much easier on you." He has to be on top of his game mentally.

Without Gronk and Solder, whether they admit it or not, they are limited schematically. "Schematically, I think you try to make smart decisions when you're going through training camp, the offseason and OTAs. In preseason games you don't hold everything back. You've got to run things that you feel comfortable running. Certainly, there might be some things that you're waiting and trying to improve on before you use them in a game," McDaniels said. "In Week 1, there's always a lot of uncertainty. There's always roster situations on both sides of the ball, there are injuries that could come up in the last few weeks of the preseason. There are schematic questions, whether the other team is going to do exactly what you thought they were going to do or not do." They have to leave guys in to block, and help Fleming on Mr. Jones.

And Mr. Jones will be coming for Jimmy-G like he just stole candy from his kids. "I think all of those things exist and I think that you have to go in there with a plan that you feel good about with your players," McDaniels said. "That they feel good about. Have a good week of preparation in practice. You have a little extra time here to let things sink in and to really nail down, hopefully, the details and the finer points of what you want to do, and then go out there and hopefully let the players play fast. That's the most important thing: that the players feel comfortable with what we're doing, and giving them an opportunity to go out there and do their jobs as well as they can." And when everything breaks down, Gronk will not be there to bail Jimmy-G out.

So this is it, will he be or not be a legit starting NFL QB? "There's so much going on right now," Jimmy-G said. "Mentally, I'm straight Arizona. But it is a phenomenal opportunity. This is why you play the game. You play to be in the game and play. You don't want to be the backup. The opportunity is here. I've just got to go take advantage of it." That is the question.

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