'Efficient eyes' aid QB Jimmy Garoppolo

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo produced one of the notable plays of the team's first practice of mandatory minicamp Tuesday, a high-arcing spiral to rookie receiver Jeremy Johnson down the right sideline for a touchdown of about 40-45 yards.

It was a perfect read, a perfect throw between converging defenders in 11-on-11 drills to hit Johnson in stride.

As much as it can be at this time of year when players aren't in full pads and there is no contact, it was a thing of football beauty, highlighting Garoppolo's promise as a developmental quarterback who one day could take the full-time reins.

"You see the safeties rotate and you get your eyes in the right place," Garoppolo explained afterwards. "You have to have efficient eyes. I did that on that play."

With Patriots No. 2 quarterback Ryan Mallett limited in drills over the past week, it's created opportunities for Garoppolo on the practice field where the coaching staff can lock its eyes on him. As one would expect with a rookie, the results have been mixed -- at times Garoppolo delivers a big-time throw like the one to Johnson, while other times he's on the ground after failing to secure the football on a handoff.

This is part of the learning curve for any young player, and Garoppolo, 22, is soaking it up. He speaks with a humble confidence, acknowledging it's a big jump from Eastern Illinois to the NFL, and the game is played faster, but he believes by embracing the day-to-day process he can make the leap.

"We come out here, it's gorgeous out here, had a great day of practice. What else would you rather be doing?" he asked the 40 or so reporters that surrounded him after practice.

By the end of the interview, Garoppolo told reporters that his day wasn't close to over. There was more work to be done, and he's happy to be doing it with Tom Brady and Mallett.

"They're two guys who have been doing this for a while and they know the offense very well. They've helped me a tremendous amount," Garoppolo said, adding that offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and coaching assistant Jerry Schuplinski also "have done a great job" in working with him.

"Josh is just like me, an energetic guy. He loves the offense, loves football and we go out there and have a great time every day."

Sometimes, simply watching Brady himself has been the best education for Garoppolo, especially when it comes to the way he leads the offense.

"Without a doubt," Garoppolo said. "Guys look to him as a coach on the field. That's what you want in a quarterback. Watching and learning what he does -- not so much what he tells me -- but watching his mannerisms and everything, I've learned a lot."

Some Patriots players have commended Garoppolo for having a similar presence. It's something in which he takes great pride, as he believes the quarterback is also a coach on the field.

"You're expected to know everything and get people in the right spot, and take command," he said. "That's what I'm trying to do. ...

"It's a process, that's for sure. It's one of those things, you have to take it day by day. Each day is different and you have to be consistently good, not occasionally great."

Asked if there was anything that surprised him with the speed of the game, Garoppolo said things have been about what he expected.

"There is a transition from the college to the NFL game, and it's just something you have to get used to. Great athletes do," he relayed.

As for the idea of one day taking over for Brady, Garoppolo indicated that's not part of his mindset.

"It's just one of those things, you can't really focus on it," he said. "If you're focusing on that, you're focusing on the wrong things. My main focus was on coming out here, being very consistent -- day in and day out. It's a grind, and you have to come out here and do well each and every day."

On Tuesday, he had at least one play to feel good about along those lines.

The long touchdown pass, delivered with efficient eyes, was a gem.