FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is expected to start and play the bulk of the New England Patriots’ preseason finale on Thursday night against the Giants in New York.
So far this preseason, the second-round rookie has completed 24 of his 37 throws for 334 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions for a 129.8 passer rating.
“I’m excited about it,” Garoppolo admitted Monday. “It’s a good opportunity to get out there and get some quality reps. It’s going to be fun.”
Tom Brady and most of the starters will sit out the game.
On the other side of the ball, the Giants will play their starters for the first 15-18 snaps of the game. So Garoppolo will get some time against a higher level of competition, at least early on.
“I came in with the mindset that I’m going to practice and study as if I was the starter,” Garoppolo said. “If you want to be a successful player in this league, you have to take the mental reps, the physical reps, and take advantage of your opportunities.
“You always want to come in with a good attitude, thinking that you’re going to succeed. Having that mindset really helped out a lot. It’s the opportunity that matters. As long as you get an opportunity, take advantage of that. Just showcase what you can do with the players around you.
The New England Patriots released veteran linebacker James Anderson, defensive linemen Tommy Kelly and Will Smith, and rookie tight end Justin Jones on Monday.
Anderson, 30, is a veteran of eight NFL seasons with the Carolina Panthers (2006-12) and the Chicago Bears (2013) who signed with the Patriots as a free agent in June. He has played in 110 NFL games with 69 starts and has 556 total tackles, 12 sacks, three interceptions, 23 pass breakups, five forced fumbles and eight fumble recoveries.
Kelly, 33, is a 10-year NFL vet with the Oakland Raiders (2004-12) and Patriots (2013). The 6-foot-6, 310-pounder has played in 134 NFL games with 122 starts and has 442 total tackles, 36.5 sacks, one interception, 15 pass breakups, nine forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries. Limited to five games last year with a knee injury, he had 23 tackles, 2.5 sacks and one fumble recovery.
Smith, 33, played 10 seasons with the New Orleans Saints. In 139 NFL games (120 starts), he has 457 tackles, 67.5 sacks, 25 pass breakups, two interceptions, 20 forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries. He also has 22 tackles, one interception and one forced fumble in eight playoff games. He spent all of last season on injured reserve with a knee injury.
Jones, 22, originally signed with the Patriots as a rookie free agent out of East Carolina in May.
Defensive end Chandler Jones led the Patriots with 11.5 sacks in his second season last fall. This summer the 2012 first-round pick has been spending most of his time working as an outside linebacker in New England’s 3-4 front. The work he’s put in on the practice field came to a head in Friday night’s win over the Panthers as Jones was dominant in the first half, recording six solo tackles, two sacks, three tackles for a loss and a pair of quarterback hits.
“He’s a versatile player and he’s very conscientious to try to do whatever we ask him to do and playing in all those different spots,” Belichick said of Jones’ work at outside linebacker. “He’s a very athletic player with good length, good playing strength so he has a lot of versatility athletically, he has a lot of versatility mentally. He’s tried to work on the techniques at those positions and that just gives our defense more flexibility. We’ll see how it all goes from game to game or during the season but he’s definitely shown the ability to play multiple spots and play them productively.”
Linebacker Jamie Collins also faces big expectations in his second season. A year ago the rookie second-round pick started eight games and finished the year with a surge, including a breakout effort in the postseason in which he showed pass-coverage and pass-rush potential in a win over the Colts.
This summer he’s been playing inside linebacker in the 3-4, and Friday night against Carolina with linebackers LB Jerod Mayo and Dont’a Hightower sitting out the game, Collins wore the green-dot helmet and served as the defensive play-caller for New England.
“I feel like Jamie’s done a real good job of that, taking control of the huddle,” Belichick said of Collins having a bit more on his plate in the third preseason contest. “High (Hightower) has done it; Jerod of course has done it. Then we’ve had other guys do it after those players were out. It was a good opportunity. Jamie has had several opportunities in camp to do it but did a good job of it tonight. I think it’s good experience for those different guys to handle the communication and see how much that kind of affects the rest of their play and also gives them better — more familiarity I should say — with the calls and what (defensive coordinator) Matt (Patricia) is calling into the defense so even when they’re not calling it, they’re probably a little more aware of what the calls are.”
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski nailed a 60-yard field-goal attempt to close out the first half of Friday night’s victory over the Panthers at Gillette Stadium. That’s six yards longer than his previous best, and longer than New England’s regular-season franchise record of 57 yards held by Adam Vinatieri.
“We got the opportunity at the end of the half. That’s the time you want to try a long field goal,” Gostkowski said. “The thing about trying a long field goal like that is there are no expectations. You go out there, and it’s really a win-win situation. Nobody really expects you to make it, so it really puts your mind at ease. We hit a pretty good kick, and we got out there a little late, the play clock was running down, so I didn’t really get to aim. I just kind of kicked it, and luckily the wind blew it enough to the left, a nice little draw, and it just fell in there. It was cool to see everybody getting excited and stuff like that. It was just a pretty cool experience. It was the longest kick I’ve ever kicked in a game, and it’s nice to get an opportunity and take advantage of it.”